Cell Coverage: Reaching Pakistan’s Children with the Polio Vaccine

Pakistan is one of only two remaining polio-endemic countries, and extinguishing the virus from every remote region is a considerable challenge. Vaccinators, risking attacks from militants, have to target and track with precision civilians fleeing a warzone in the country’s northwest provinces. One project is using cell phones as part of the polio eradication effort, and the potential is great for improved public health in general. A 2012 report predicted that mobile health technologies could save 75,000 mothers and children every year in Pakistan, and reduce hospital costs by US$1 billion annually, through accurate remote diagnostics that ensure treatment at the right level, reducing hospital referrals.

Digital Diversity is a series of blog posts from kiwanja.net featuring the many ways mobile phones and other appropriate technologies are being used throughout the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives.

By Aziz Memon

In 2014, nearly a million people were displaced by the government’s military operation to root out terrorists in northwestern Pakistan. Inevitably, this massive migration caused challenges as fleeing families reached refugee camps and new communities. Pakistan is one of only two remaining polio-endemic countries, and polio infection rates soared in 2014, with 306 cases, the highest number in over a decade.

But it also opened up a window of opportunity to vaccinate more than 850,000 children who had not been accessible to health workers since 2012. With so many children missed by Pakistan’s polio vaccination effort, the country needed to conduct a swift, precise campaign to ensure that a devastating disease did not spread further.

And this is where the potential of cell phones for public health enters the picture. Since April 2014, Rotary has been working in Pakistan to replace traditional written paper reporting of polio and maternal and newborn health data from the field with cell phone —> Read More