Pakistan close to ‘polio-free country’ target

NEOC coordinator says no room for complacency in reaching this last milestone


APP October 25, 2021
PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD:

World Health Organisation Representative in Pakistan Dr Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala has said that with one polio case reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan, it may appear that we are almost at the end of this journey, but this is only the beginning of the most challenging time as the last part of this journey is the hardest.

At this critical junction, I would like to thank Pakistan and our frontline heroes for their determination, commitment and dedication. Without them the journey this far would have been impossible, he added.

National Emergency Operations Centre Coordinator (NEOC) Dr Shahzad Baig said on Sunday Pakistan is now close to delivering on a promise of a polio-free world for children.

“This World Polio Day is a reminder for all of us to ensure we deliver this precious promise to our children - a polio-free world,” Dr Shahzad said in a message on World Polio Day that is being observed on October 24 every year.

“Today, we are closer than ever to eradicating the poliovirus from Pakistan, but this last mile is the hardest and most important, with no room for complacency,” he said, “We must ensure all under-five children are vaccinated and safe from this vaccine-preventable contagious disease.”

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He was of the view that World Polio Day is observed across the world and nationwide with the call for concerted efforts to eradicate poliovirus from Pakistan. In 1988, governments and global leaders embarked on an ambitious mission to eradicate all forms of poliovirus, he added.

Meanwhile, in partnership with Rotary International, the polio programme organised various events both at the national and provincial levels to commemorate the day.

The Rotary International and the Pakistan Polio Programme jointly organised a photo exhibition highlighting various activities of the polio eradication programme while a motor rally was organised along with the Srinagar highway to raise awareness on this disease. Similarly, seminars, workshops, and rallies recognising the efforts of polio workers were organised in all provinces.

World Polio Day has been celebrated globally since 2011 by Rotary International and various organisations. Thirty years ago, there were over 350,000 cases of wild poliovirus each year. Backed by solid investments and political commitment, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), of which Rotary International is a founding member, has helped bring the number of polio cases close to zero.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are the last two countries left in the world where poliovirus is yet to be fully stamped out. Despite the pervasive challenges of Covid-19, the world is in the final stage of polio eradication. Reaching to all children with vaccines is the only thing that can make the world polio-free, and it is possible through concerted efforts of parents, caregivers, and all stakeholders.

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Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of five years. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease.

Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus is increased. Repeated immunisations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio-free.

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