Public health: Political will key to ending polio, says Rafique

CM’s adviser says efforts under way to achieve 90% routine immunisation

Our Correspondent April 30, 2016


Adviser to Chief Minister on Health Khwaja Salman Rafique said on Saturday elimination of clusters of polio virus from various areas was necessary to rid the country of the disease.

He was speaking at a seminar on polio, at a local hotel. Rotary Club of Pakistan office-bearers Aziz Memon, Saeed Shamsi and Sajid Pervaiz Bhatti, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Provincial Coordinator Aslam Chaudhry were also present on the occasion.

Rafique expressed concern over some cases of violence against polio workers. He said better arrangements by the provincial government had helped take routine immunisation to 80 per cent; this would be extended to 90 per cent in the coming months.

The adviser said the Health Department had taken various steps to improve EPI coverage. These include capacity-building of vaccinators, training programmes for technical staff and use of information technology, he said.

He said android cell phones had been given to vaccinators to monitor their performance. This had helped cover more areas across the province, he said. Rafique said political commitment was key to ending polio.

Citing survey results, he said polio virus from the Punjab had never been transferred to other areas in the country. He said some positive environmental samples collected in Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi contained the type of virus that originated in other areas of Pakistan. The adviser said nine polio cases had been reported in the country this year; none of them was from the Punjab. “Presence of the virus in any part of the country is a threat to all children. Collective efforts are, therefore, needed to protect our children from the crippling disease,” he said.

Rafique praised the efforts of Rotary Club of Pakistan against polio. He thanked it for providing assistance to the Health Department for its polio campaign across the province.

Polio campaign

A polio campaign would be arranged in 15 districts in the province from May 2 to 5, a press statement quoted Rafique as saying.

He said the campaign was part of the Sub-National Immunisation Day. “It covers the districts that are considered to be at the greater risk of polio virus transmission,” he said. The districts are: Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi, Dera Ghazi Khan, Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalpur, Okara, Faisalabad, Hafizabad, Lodhran, Toba Tek Singh, Jhang and Chiniot.

The adviser said efforts would be made to ensure timely micro planning, mapping of high-risk mobile population and supply of vaccine in the districts.Primary and Secondary Healthcare Secretary Ali Jan Khan said that under the campaign, more than 9.44 million children of less than five years of age would be given polio drops in 1,547 union councils. He said polio had been declared a national emergency. At district level, the DCOs concerned have to take ownership of polio-eradication efforts, he said.

Health Services Director General Mukhtar Hussain Syed said 23,152 teams would be on duty during the drive. Of these, 19,738 are mobile teams, 2,155 stationery and 2,159 transit teams. He said focus would be on the movement of people at provincial borders, particularly those coming from the areas having polio virus circulation. EPI Director Munir Ahmed requested parents to ensure that their children got polio drops.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2016.


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