Pakistan’s resolve to fight polio is evidenced in 85 per cent reduction in polio cases, a significant drop in positive environmental samples, zero tolerance for inefficiency, improved governance, and access to children in hitherto inaccessible areas. It is the right of every Pakistani child to enjoy protection from polio and that the government is determined to ensure that every child is reached with anti-polio vaccine.
This is the crux of a statement made by the Prime Minister’s focal person for polio eradication, Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, in connection with World Polio Day.
“The government, which was faced with a raging epidemic of polio, took the challenge head-on, and with a well thought-out strategy and high quality implementation, has been able to not only contain the spread of the virus but has put the programme on the road to completely stopping poliovirus transmission,” Ayesha pointed out in the statement.
The PM’s focal person on polio has termed the establishment of national and provincial emergency operation centres for better monitoring, zero tolerance for inefficiency, and improved governance as “the cornerstone of the government’s strategy.”
With reference to the challenging security situation, Ayesha maintained that the government’s resolve against terrorism and decisive action in the troubled areas has had a salutary effect on polio eradication. “It is unfortunate that children had to suffer affliction of an irreversible ailment in this senseless spate of violence. A reign of fear prevented both health workers and families from reaching out to each other. With the success of military operation ‘Zarb-i-Azab’ and support provided by the armed forces in implementation of the campaign, that challenge is being effectively addressed,” she maintained.
Ayesha said Pakistan has converted adversity into opportunity and changed the course of events, reaching eligible children in all agencies of Fata and across the country. In this context, she made a mention of the effective UAE-Pakistan Army collaborative effort in Fata and adjoining areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. “As part of special strategies to exploit every opportunity of immunising children against polio and other diseases, all children of the Temporarily Displaced Populations returning to their homes were also vaccinated,” she recollected.
The statement also acknowledges the overwhelming support of the religious clergy representing all schools of thought. “They have rallied behind the cause, calling upon the faithful to fulfil their obligation towards their children as enshrined in Holy Quran. As a result of locally appropriate and innovative communication and advocacy strategy, refusal to polio vaccination have seen a sharp decline and today stand at all time low,” she said.
Ayesha termed access to hitherto inaccessible areas and making insecure areas safe for vaccination operations as being the single most important breakthrough achieved by the polio programme. “Out-of-the-box strategies like community protected vaccination in security compromised areas have been scaled up with door-to-door vaccination campaigns in most difficult to reach areas in Balochistan, Fata, KP and Karachi,” she said.
In conclusion, Ayesha paid tribute to public health managers, vaccine experts, logisticians and epidemiologists who plan for vaccination; parents, who overwhelmingly demand the service of vaccination; political parties, who have come together over for the common goal of protecting the future of Pakistan; and the hundreds of women and men who brave rough terrain, inclement weather and long arduous days of work to ensure children are protected from polio.