PM asks Ministry of Interior to provide protection to vaccinators
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has instructed the Ministry of Interior to provide protection to all vaccinators working for the polio eradication initiative in Pakistan in a bid to restore their confidence.
The instruction was given in response to concerns expressed by the regional director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Ala Alwan, who was on a brief trip to Islamabad to attend a meeting of the National Task Force on Polio Eradication here Tuesday.
Dr. Alwan is reported to have expressed utter dissatisfaction over the pace of investigations into the Karachi shooting incident targeting polio staff of WHO. He urged the PM and the President to personally look into the matter and requested that security be provided to WHO staffers in the country. The fact that a joint investigation team was not constituted even after 10 days of the incident also aroused concern.
Dr. Alwan underscored the need to vaccinate the over 160,000 children who are being missed in Bara since September 2009 and requested the government’s support to reach them with polio drops. Several other participants also pointed out that the threat to vaccinators is maligning the government’s efforts, and that special protective cover should be provided to women vaccinators in particular.
The meeting was chaired by the PM and attended by top officials including chief ministers, governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Prime Minister of AJK, minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho, Polio Ambassador Aseefa Bhutto Zardari and members of the parliament.
“We are not just saving a life but entire humanity by implementing the polio eradication initiative. Saving the vulnerable and healing the ailing is in line with the teachings of our great religion Islam,” the PM is reported to have said during the meeting. He directed the polio programme to redoubled its efforts to achieve the desired results.
The National Task Force met to discuss key challenges that need to be addressed in eradicating polio. The meeting started with Shahnaz presenting an overview of the polio situation. Pakistan has reported 27 cases so far in 2012 as against 71 during the same period last year.
The PM expressed serious concern over ban on polio immunisation by certain. He asked all district ‘khateebs’ to become active part of the initiative. “The government is fully committed; no religion on earth opposes polio campaign,” he said. He also directed the governor of KP to ensure that polio campaigns are held without hindrance in all parts of Fata.
Aseefa said, the challenge of inaccessibility needs to be overcome with appropriate strategies; this is the responsibility of not only the communities but the state as well. “The number of children being missed as a result of ban on polio campaigns in North and South Waziristan and other parts of Fata is indeed alarming,” she added. We need to continue to garner the support of religious scholars and fire-walling of areas with transit teams so that all children entering or exiting the area and moving to areas not affected by polio are protected with polio vaccine,” Aseefa added.