As the world observed Polio Day today, three new cases were confirmed in Pakistan, one of the few countries where the crippling disease continues to be endemic.
This took the total number of cases in Pakistan this year to 49, a development that threatens to derail global efforts to root out the disease. Last year, 58 cases were reported across the country.
The National Institute of Health confirmed that three children were affected by the polio virus, including two from the restive tribal areas and one from Sheikhupura in Punjab, The Express Tribune reported.
A 15-month-old boy from Bara in Khyber Agency and a three-year-old girl from Miranshah were among them.
In April this year, a USD 5.5 billion global eradication plan was launched for covering and vaccinating over 250 million children multiple times every year. The virus has been cornered to a few areas in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
However, health workers in Pakistan have been repeatedly attacked since the Taliban denounced polio vaccines as a "Western plot" to sterilise Muslims and imposed a ban on inoculation.
In June last year, a Taliban faction imposed a ban on anti-polio vaccinations in North Waziristan, stipulating the restriction would last till US drone attacks cease.
Since then, no one in the region has been able to get their children vaccinated. The situation is so acute that the disease continues to thrive in North Waziristan, where locals have turned to a local 'pir' to find a cure.
The Khyber-Pathunkhwa government yesterday launched a special anti-polio programme that will continue till Friday.A total of 4,343 teams will administer the vaccine to children.
Officials said two cases were reported from Punjab, seven from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, three from Sindh and 34 from the tribal areas this year.