Pakistan and Canada have agreed to join forces to fight the crippling disease of polio.
This was agreed during a meeting between a Canadian High Commission delegation and Prime Minister’s Focal Person for polio eradication Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq here on Monday.
Farooq said that polio cases decreased by 80 per cent in 2015 compared to the previous year.
The delegation, led by Louis Verret, a senior director, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Afghanistan Division, met with the senator and discussed ways to improve the coordination between the two countries.
Farooq briefed the team about the progress made in curbing the polio virus transmission across Pakistan.
“This is, indeed, a defining moment for the country as we have made record progress in the fight against polio and are moving ahead with utmost determination to achieve the goal of polio-free Pakistan in the near future,” the focal person said.
The Canadian government, being the largest contributor to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), has been at the forefront in the fight against the crippling disease. The country has contributed $402.06 million from 1995 to 2014 to eradicate polio worldwide.
Canada supports the goal of eliminating polio from the world by 2018. It was also the first country to assist Pakistan in tackling the conditions that allow polio to continue. In January 2014, it pledged $20 million for the polio plus initiative by increasing coverage, access and effectiveness of the vaccines.
Senator Farooq said that the government’s objective was to reach every child to rid the country of polio in 2016; and for which, the government has reached out to civil society, religious scholars and public representatives.
She also briefed the Canadian mission on the year’s first nationwide polio campaign and the efforts the government is making to purge the country of the disease.
She said that the polio eradication programme was being led by a dedicated network of emergency operation centres (EOCs)at both national and provincial levels. She also commended the performance of the teams working on the ground and called them heroes.
Dr Rana Safdar, the national coordinator of EOCs, said that with the international community’s support, Pakistan will achieve its goal of a polio-free Pakistan.
The Canadian mission also visited the national EOC control room to see the campaign’s progress. The delegation assured its continued support to Pakistan in its efforts towards eliminating the disease from the country.
Senator Farooq, while acknowledging the Canadian government’s support, said, “None of the gains we have made would have been possible without the committed political leadership of the federal and provincial governments and the support from the international community and partners like Canada.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2016.