PESHAWAR: At least nine children have died and several others were admitted in hospitals as diphtheria broke out in North and South Waziristan tribal regions, where children have been deprived of routine immunization due to turbulent law and order situation, official sources told Daily Times. Talking to this scribe, Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) Deputy Director FATA Ikhtiar Ali said that three children from South Waziristan and six from North Waziristan have died of diphtheria. He said that throughout the world, the anti-diphtheria serum (ADS) vaccine is being produced by Croatia and India that is why there is usually its shortage in most of the countries. EPI Programme Manager Dr Hameed Afridi said that diphtheria has broken out in four villages of North Waziristan. One child from the tribal region expired at the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar while two children from the area were admitted in Khyber Teaching Hospital here. “We, the EPI staff, provided anti-diphtheria serum (ADS) vaccines to the children admitted in the hospitals in Peshawar. However, one child expired due to heart complications. It becomes difficult to save life of a child whose heart is affected by the disease,” he said. He said that earlier in the month of July, one child had died of diphtheria in Lakki Marwat district. Diphtheria can affect others too and minor children are more vulnerable to this disease. “We have loaned medicines from Punjab Province since we in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa do not have ADS vaccines. In fact, these vaccines are prepared in two countries and most countries of the world lack it,” he said. Dr Afridi said that the main reason behind the diphtheria spread is that there has been no routine immunization of children in North Waziristan for the last several years. EPI Coordinator in Bannu, Dr Altaf said they have admitted eight children in Bannu DHQ hospital. Children in North and South Waziristan could not be administered ‘Pentavalent’ vaccines in the first year of their lives that is why they became victim of the disease. Meanwhile, Director Health Services (DHS), FATA, Dr Jawad Habib Khan, in a meeting held at Emergency Operation Center directed the officials to conduct routine EPI campaign in North Waziristan and South Waziristan agencies in response to the findings of Diphtheria outbreak. He said renewed campaign should ensure vaccination of multi antigens (including BCG, Penta, PCV-10, IPV and measles or vaccines of routine immunization schedule) to preempt outbreaks of other diseases as well. It was decided that in the first phase multi antigen vaccination campaign would be carried out in three rounds of 12 days and will be extended to all parts of North and South Waziristan Agencies. In the second phase, multi antigen vaccination campaign will be expanded to surrounding areas including FR Tank, FR D.I. Khan, FR Lakki and FR Bannu. Earlier, Health and Nutrition Specialist UNICEF, Immunization Officer, Provincial Cluster Lead WHO and EPI Officer WHO pledged full support and emphasized the need for health monitoring and surveillance mechanism for effective routine immunization. With the support of Pakistan Army in the case response launched at North and South Waziristan Agencies 1742 and 415 children have been vaccinated with Penta respectively. All three hospitals of the affected districts have been alerted, whereas, isolation ward has been established in Women & Children Hospital in Bannu as well as in Agency Head Quarter North Waziristan Agency. N-Stop Officers (trained in Field Epidemiology) have been appointed as focal persons in affected area of each North & South Waziristan Agencies.