ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a high-level meeting on polio cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other provinces of Pakistan.
Prime Minister Imran Khan stated that eradication of polio is the top-most priority of the government as it affects the future generation. Expressing serious concern over the recent spike in polio cases, the PM directed officials concerned in the federal as well as provincial governments to undertake effective awareness and immunization campaigns to check the incidence of polio.
The Prime Minister also stressed upon the need for a robust Ehsaas Polio Partnership for synergized implementation of the two vital programs.
The meeting was attended by Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mehmood Khan, Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan, SAPM on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza, PM’s Focal Person on Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative Babar Bin Atta, Engineer-in-Chief of Pakistan Army Lt. Gen. Moazzam Ejaz, High Commissioner of Canada to Pakistan Ms. Wendy Gilmore, Federal Secretary Health, Chief Secretaries of Punjab, KP, Sindh & Balochistan, representatives from UNICEF, WHO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and senior officials.
Babar Atta briefed the meeting on the recent incidence, measures being taken and the future strategy for polio eradication. Atta informed the meeting about the report of International Monitoring Board for the year 2017-18 identifying loopholes in the strategy at that time which led to the recent spike of polio cases in some parts of the country, especially Bannu division.
Mr Babar also briefed the meeting about the new strategy which is based on four new pillars including a shift from push to pull, from disease control to eradication, ownership at the highest level and ensuring complete accountability at the operational level.
He also highlighted various measures being taken for perception management including engagement with social media platforms to counter anti-vaccine propaganda, involving mainstream media for a mass awareness campaign, the establishment of 24/7 call centre and publicizing environment or human cases.
Chief Ministers of KP and Balochistan and the Chief Secretaries of Punjab and Sindh apprised the meeting regarding measures taken for polio eradication in their respective provinces.
The representative of Pakistan Army assured full support to polio teams in their efforts to reach out to the children in far-flung areas of the country.
Representatives of international partners and donors also assured their continued cooperation to the Government of Pakistan in polio eradication mission. Dr Tim Peterson, Deputy Director Polio Bill & Melinda Gates also presented a letter of appreciation from Mr Bill Gates to the Prime Minister for efforts being made to eliminate the crippling disease.
41 polio cases reported in KP
A report prepared by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government for the meeting states that in the last year no polio case surfaced in the province. The situation this year was different as 41 cases were reported in 10 districts of the province. Three of the cases were from the Bannu division of the province.
Further, the report stated that 80 per cent of polio cases were reported from Pakhtun community areas. A major reason attributed to the rise of polio cases was the security situation in the province.
On Tuesday, Chief Secretary Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Saleem Khan said polio eradication was the top priority of the government and vowed to stamp out the crippling disease from the region with concerted efforts at all levels.
Polio, a disease transmitted through sewage which can cause crippling paralysis particularly in young children, is incurable and remains a threat to human health as long as it has not been eradicated. Immunization campaigns have succeeded in most countries and have come close in Pakistan, but persistent problems remain.