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September 7, 2019

New plan evolved to make Pakistan polio-free within three years


September 7, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The government has devised a new plan for eradicating polio from Pakistan within next three years.

Under the plan, 100-line call centers around the country would be established to address the parents’ complaints regarding vaccination and to get updates regarding polio cases.

The government will motivate the parents and the people would be educated about disastrous consequences of the incurable disease, sources told The News on Friday. Recently, two new polio cases have surfaced one each in Balochistan and in KP, which is alarming. Resurgence of polio cases in various parts of Pakistan in the ongoing year necessitated the fight against polio and the drive would further intensify to rid the country of the menace once and for all.

They said that these steps would definitely give positive results in the coming months.

Different donors’ agencies and especially the UAE government are extending helping hand to Pakistan to make the country polio-free by the year 2022 through its polio initiative in Pakistan called the Emirates Polio Campaign by the year 2022. Pakistan is one of the two remaining countries in the world along with Afghanistan, which are yet to be declared polio-free, a virus that has not been seen in the rest of the world since 1990.

The latest government figures show Pakistan has seen 53 cases of the deadly disease this year, the highest tally since 2014, which was 306 and up from only 12 cases last year. The propaganda against polio vaccine and increase in number of refusal cases is a major cause behind the spike in cases in the country especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), which suffered the most as a total of 41 polio cases were reported there.

The Emirates Polio Campaign was launched in 2014 after 306 cases were reported in Pakistan, which amounted to 85 percent of the cases that year in the whole world. It was launched under its flagship programme UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme (UAEPAP), which was started in 2010 and covers important development sectors like education, infrastructure, safe drinking water, healthcare and polio eradication.

Details showed that under the UAEPAP, a total of 71 million Pakistani children have been successfully vaccinated. However, in 2019, the programme suffered a lot after a private school in Peshawar falsely reported children having a reaction to polio drops due to which the locals burnt a Basic Health Unit (BHU) and around 25,000 children were taken to various hospitals of Peshawar after those false rumours became viral.

Details showed that the UAEPAP was launched keeping with UAE’s foreign policy under the directives of UAE President Sheikh bin Zayed Al Nahyan and after working for nine years, expanding their operations to include other provinces such as Balochistan.

The UAEPAP is providing healthcare facilities, particularly for the women and children who are generally marginalised in rural and tribal settings. For this purpose, the programme carried out nine different projects one of the largest of which is the Pak-Emirates Military Hospital in Rawalpindi with the capacity of more than 1,300 beds serving more than six million people annually, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan hospital in Swat and Sheikha Fatima Binte Mubarak Hospital in Sholam. This hospital is the first in the region to offer services like gynecology, dialysis, immunisation, intensive care and preventative medicine.

Amid the recent polio cases surge, the Emirates Polio Campaign reiterated its resolve to stand by Pakistan to eradicate polio entirely by the year 2022. Since 2011, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan has supported international campaigns to fight polio. Children of Pakistan are at constant risk of contracting this crippling disease.

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