Govt declares ‘war against polio’

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed all-out efforts for the eradication of polio from Pakistan and called for measures on “war-footing” to make the country polio-free. He issued these instructions during the meeting of the federal cabinet he chaired at the PM Office on Thursday. The meeting focused on eradiation of polio from the country, tidied “Budget Strategy Paper 2014-17”, and proposals from various ministries. Prime Minister Nawaz and his aides discussed polio in the backdrop of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) travel restrictions on Pakistan. Under the recommendation, travellers from Pakistan will be required to carry polio immunisation certifications when exiting the country. The Health Ministry has announced that polio certificates will be mandatory for foreign travel from Pakistan from June 1. Prime Minister Nawaz said he was personally supervising the Polio Eradication Programme and would ensure that all the issues and problems being faced in the implementation of the programme are resolved immediately. He also directed an extensive awareness campaign to dispel the misconceptions about polio vaccination. The cabinet was briefed by the National Coordinator for Polio Eradication, Ayesha Raza Farooq, regarding barriers and challenges faced by the polio programme and the way forward for making it a success. The cabinet was informed that 90 percent of Pakistan was polio-free and the virus was only isolated to few areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Karachi. The cabinet was informed that this year, cases have been reported only in conflict-ridden areas, which showed that the inaccessibility of field vaccination workers was the main reason behind reported cases. Prime Minister Nawaz directed field workers be provided security in coordination with the provincial governments, and wherever necessary the services of the Pakistan Army be utilised.Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Finance Secretary Dr Waqar Masood Khan also gave a detailed presentation to the cabinet members on “Budget Strategy Paper 2014-17”. The minister told the meeting that the government was reframing the budget structure for the next three years, placing emphasis on major policy objectives. While elaborating upon what he claimed were the “positive” economic indicators of the first nine months of the government, the minister said that during first half of the last financial year the GDP growth was recorded as 3.4 percent, while it has appreciated to 4.1 per cent in the 1st half of 2013-14.

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