ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Thursday was informed that 108 polio cases have been diagnosed in Pakistan till now and the government is trying its level best to completely eradicate the menace. The government aims to arrest poliovirus transmission in Pakistan by the end of 2015.
Answering a question, State Minister for National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination Sara Afzal Tarar said that 77 cases were reported in FATA, 19 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 10 in Sindh. Punjab and Balochistan were polio free but unfortunately in recent days one case was reported in Killa Abdullah and Chakwal.
The minister said that the government was making efforts on war footing to eradicate this menace from the country. “Procurement and distribution of polio vaccine was federal government’s responsibility while provinces were responsible for implementing the programme,” she observed.
Tarar further said that the cases were reported from areas where the law and order situation was poor and the polio campaign was not launched properly. The government declared polio eradication as a national emergency, in order to interrupt poliovirus transmission and achieve goal of a polio-free Pakistan.
In a written reply, the minister said that the first National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) for Polio Eradication was developed and approved in 2011 by the National Task Force on Polio Eradication (NTF). The prime minister is endorsing the most recent NEAP to be implemented for 2014 in the country earlier this month. The objective of the emergency plan is to arrest poliovirus transmission in Pakistan by end of 2015. The provincial government, implements the polio programme with national level coordination through the Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell, World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund, as spearheading partners, providing technical and operational assistance.
Recognising Peshawar and Karachi as key reservoirs for poliovirus in the country, and repeated vaccination campaigns have failed to stop poliovirus transmission, special activities were implemented in the two cities. These activities changed arrangements to provide a security cover for vaccinators, weekly campaigns delivered in one day (normally campaigns are of 3-4 days’ duration) and the provision of a broad child health package of benefits to the community.
An intense schedule for supplementary immunisation activities is being carried out across the country, with particular focus on areas where children are at risk of poliomyelitis; the most intense level of activities is during the low season for transmission (December to April) when the chances of stopping the spread of the virus are at its best.
A new enhanced transit strategy has been developed utilising permanent vaccination transit points at international border crossings, intra-provincial and district borders, bus stations, railway stations, toll plazas, religious shrines and other gathering places to vaccinate children on the move, especially those going to and from polio reservoir areas, the minister apprised the House.
In addition to supplementary immunisation campaigns (SIAs), children’s immunity to poliovirus is raised through vaccinations given in the routine immunisation programme. Pakistan has very low coverage in its routine immunisation programme (the Expanded Programme on Immunisation, EPI).
The polio eradication initiative is working to actively engage the religious leadership in the fight against polio. Several fatwas have been issued in support of polio eradication and in opposition to violent attacks on polio vaccinators.
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