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Peshawar

January 4, 2015

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First polio campaign of 2015

PESHAWAR: The decision by the Focal Person to the Prime Minister on Polio, lawmaker Ayesha Raza Farooq, to suspend the first polio campaign of 2015 has frustrated the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) health administrations, highly placed sources confided to The News here on Saturday.
According to an official letter issued by the Focal Person to the Prime Minister on Polio on 23 December and a subsequent email sent by the department of health services to all concerned officials of Fata Secretariat (copy available with The News), the first polio campaign of the current year has been suspended in the country due to the security situation.
The high-ranking officials of Fata and KP Health Department slammed the decision and termed it incorrect and hasty.
“After the heartbreaking incident of the Army Public School in Peshawar, the decision of the federal Health Ministry to cancel the drive would cause concern to the parents in KP and Fata,” said an official of the KP Health Department while requesting anonymity.
He expressed displeasure and frustration over the decision and termed it interference in the provincial matters.
“After the promulgation of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, health and security is a provincial matter. However, it seems the federal government has forgotten the 18th amendment,” he said.
The official revealed that the directives of the Focal Person on Polio were also questionable because she didn’t officially take the provincial polio authorities on board before issuing the controversial orders.
“The KP and Fata Polio Emergency Operations Centre’s (EOC) and Polio Control Room’s (PCR) were completely in the dark over the decision of the National Focal Person on Polio,” he added.
According to officials of both the Fata and KP health departments, all preparations for the first polio round of the year were in full swing and the unexpected orders of the PM’s Focal

Person on Polio came as an unpleasant surprise.
An official press release of the National EOC issued later in the day stated that Short Interval Polio campaigns scheduled from January 5-7, 2014 in districts of the country has been called off to allow for better preparation for the upcoming National Immunization Days for Polio beginning January 19, 2014.
“The measure has been taken in view of insufficient time available to the districts to prepare for the campaign since many were still finishing their December campaigns. Furthermore, there was a need to ensure that a polio round is of the highest quality and necessary measures for security of polio workers are in place,” it stated.
The press release said that intensive polio vaccination activity had been planned to be carried out between January and March this year including three nationwide campaigns and two short interval campaigns for high risk areas.
More than 35 million children will be vaccinated in the nationwide campaigns whereas in the special high risk area campaigns 8.8 million children will be administered the anti-polio drops.
Pakistan reported yet another polio case on Saturday from Khyber Agency. It took the total number of polio cases during 2014 to a record 297, only three short of the embarrassing 300 figure.
In 1998, Pakistan reported more than 300 polio cases.
With the addition of the latest polio case, the total reported from Fata in 2014 has reached 175. KP has reported 67 polio cases, Sindh 29, Balochistan 23 and Punjab three cases.
When contacted, an official of the Fata Secretariat, said “It is disappointing that for the first time after 2011, door-to-door anti-polio campaigns were about to start from next Monday throughout Fata, but the hasty decision of the federal polio officers has jeopardized the hard work.”

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