The unmonitored movement of people across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan threatens efforts to eradicate polio from the two countries, as the year’s first cases of the virus are recorded in the volatile region.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative said people travelling through unchecked crossings is believed to be one of the main causes of the spread of the disease in the area.
Afghanistan and Pakistan, along with Nigeria, are the only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic.
Last month, the year’s first case of the wild polio virus in Pakistan was reported by the Bajaur Agency in the country’s federally administered tribal area, bordering Afghanistan. The virus was also found in the border towns of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.
While the border areas are the main source of concern, cases were also reported in January in Punjab province.
Since the start of the polio eradication program in Pakistan in 1994, virus cases have been consistently reported along the 2,430km-stretch of the border, from main towns and cities to remote villages.
The worst outbreak of polio in Pakistan was recorded in 2014, when 202 cases were reported. The government blamed the Taliban for banning immunisations and launching attacks on vaccination teams.