Pak, Afghan officials meet to discuss polio eradication

QUETTA: A two-day regional cross-border coordination meeting on polio eradication between Balochistan and southern Afghanistan was held in Quetta in collaboration with UNICEF.
The speakers said during the meeting that more than 70% of polio cases globally in 2014 emerged from Pakistan. Extensive cross-border population movement is one of the major challenges faced by both regions, as these populations are responsible for sustaining polio virus circulation and spreading it from one area to another.
“An estimated 800 children are vaccinated at Pakistan-Afghanistan Friendship Gate everyday,” said Balochistan Health Minister Rehmat Baloch, adding, “We need to ensure each and every child crossing the border is immunised.”
Although no case of polio has been reported in Balochistan during the past 20 months. The recent confirmation of positive cases from southern Afghanistan and the virus’ presence in environmental samples of Quetta recently found is an alarming situation, said the minister.
“Poliovirus has no borders. Children on both sides of the border are at an equal risk of a lifetime paralysis if we do not act now,” UNICEF Chief of Field Office Rahama Muhammad said.
Kandahar Provincial Health Director Dr Abdul Qayum Pokhala said, “Both countries are facing similar issues, no country in the region will be able to eradicate polio alone.” He emphasised on the close coordination and collaboration of both the governments to eradicate polio. “This is only possible when we work together, and ensure that each child crossing the border or living in cross-border villages is immunised,” he added.

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