Islamabad , Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has expressed his satisfaction over the ongoing campaign of polio-eradication as there was only one case of polio reported since January 2012 in the country and that too in FATA where there is problem of accessibility due to the security situation.
The Prime Minister called for redoubling of efforts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to reach children in security compromised areas with polio vaccine.
He gave these directions while presiding a meeting of the National Task Force on Polio Eradication here Monday. The meeting was attended among other by Governor and Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Chief Minister Balochistan, Health Minister from Sindh, Acting Prime Minister AJK and Chief Secretaries of Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan alongside Chief Commissioner Islamabad.
The Prime Minister directed that permanent polio points be established on all routes leading out of FATA so that every child coming out of the inaccessible areas can be covered.
Commending the overall progress made in the country in polio eradication with 16 cases reported so far this year as against 36 cases in the corresponding period last year, the Prime Minister said he was happy to note that there had been a progressive improvement in the polio campaign coverage which has shown a significant upward trend with 80 percent districts having over 95 percent coverage as against only 42 percent districts having over 95 percent coverage in December 2011.
The Prime Minister Gilani asked the Chief Ministers to ensure active involvement of parliamentarians in the polio drive through their inclusion in polio eradication committees adding the Chief Ministers and Chief Secretaries to chair polio meeting every two months to review the level of preparedness.
To ensure effective conduct of the campaigns at the district level, the Prime Minister directed that more authority and powers be given to the Deputy Commissioners.
Appreciating the Governments of Gilgit- Baltistan and AJK for maintaining Polio-free status, the Prime Minister asked them to inspire other provinces to follow suit.
The Prime Minister appreciated the management of Motorway and Highways for creating awareness among the people about the disease. He further directed that Railway stations, airports and premises of hospitals should be used for the purpose.
Earlier, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister and Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication, Shahnaz Wazir Ali gave a detailed presentation on the implementation status of the National Emergency Action Plan.
She informed that with intense effort made by the Government, all Deputy Commissioners are now fully involved and responsible for polio campaigns in their districts.
She made special mention of the involvement of religious leaders in the effort garnered through the efforts of Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khurshid Shah.
Media and medical associations were now fully engaged and playing a pro-active role, she informed.
She called for co-ordination between the Routine Immunization program for children and the Polio Eradication Initiative to achieve optimal results.
Speaking to the participants, she said that all financial resources for polio eradication drive are being contributed by partner agencies, while there is a need to share financial contribution for polio eradication initiative from the Government of Pakistan, she highlighted during her presentation.
Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani, Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Co-ordination in his remarks pledged all out support and laid out a system of co-ordination between his Ministry and the Polio Eradication Initiative being led by the Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring and Co-ordination Cell.
He thanked the Prime Minister for his leadership to the anti-polio effort which has brought about tremendous improvement in the situation.
Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Barrister Masood Kausar informed that all out efforts are being made to arrest the spread of poliovirus in FATA.
So far over 26,000 children have been immunized in Bara tehsil of Khyber agency, an area reporting the highest number of polio cases this year. Issuance of ID cards and domicile in FATA and FR regions has been made conditional with the child’s immunization status he informed.
Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ameer Haider Khan Hoti informed that despite challenges posed by law and order situation in and around different districts of KP, the campaign has been intensified and no case has been reported from the province since mid-January this year.
Special immunization activities are being conducted for migrant and moving population especially those moving in to the province from neighboring FATA and those in the IDP camps.
Minister for I.T. from Balochistan, Shama Parveen Magsi informed that stern action is being taken against poor performing officials. The Government of Balochistan has allocated Rs. 15.5 Million for the Polio Campaigns from its resources, she added.
Health Minister Sindh Dr. Sagheer Ahmed informed that the Sindh Government was taking the polio effort in Karachi seriously with the result that no case has been reported from Karachi which is a high risk district. He further said that the Sindh province has reported 2 cases this year as against 12 cases in the corresponding period last year.
Senator Sughra Imam noted with concern the lone case reported from Jhang in Punjab province this year and gave different suggestions for avoiding recurrence of the situation.
Ambassador of Japan to Pakistan, Hiroshi Oe and representatives of international agencies including WHO, UNICEF, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, JICA, Rotary International and the World Bank gave various suggestions while commending the performance of the Government so far in restricting the spread of the poliovirus.
Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho, Chair of the National Polio Monitoring Committee suggested that every province is fire-walled against possible introduction of the poliovirus from FATA. To this end she recommended permanent polio points at all exit points leading out of FATA.
All of the participants were unanimous in the view that the level of commitment of the political leadership of all shades is surely a guarantee for the success of the campaign and Pakistan will become a polio-free country in the not too distant future.