Against the backdrop of a visit by World Health Organisation (WHO) regional director today, Islamabad Chief Commissioner Tariq Mahmood Pirzada directed the administration to address weaknesses in anti-polio campaigns and to increase the number of vaccination teams for more effective coverage.
Talking to The Express Tribune, WHO Communications Officer Maryum Yunus said Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office, will meet the prime minister and possibly the president as well to discuss issues being faced by the WHO team in the country while taking part in the anti-polio campaign.
The director will also discuss future plans for polio eradication and steps the government can take to facilitate the WHO team to counter the growing number of polio cases.
Dr Alwan is visiting Pakistan at a time when the country is facing tremendous challenges in combatting the growing number of polio cases.
The visit is taking place following a massive emergency effort by the government, international and national partners, including staff surges, stronger accountability for polio eradication at union council-level, systematic engagement of local and religious leadership and ownership of the initiative at national and provincial levels.
The international community has taken note of Pakistan’s inability to eliminate polio. Recently, the Japanese government warned Pakistan that it would stop funding for the health sector if it fails to overcome polio.
“Given the unprecedented scale of assistance, unless we see dramatic improvement in polio eradication in Pakistan this year, it would become very difficult to persuade the Japanese taxpayer to continue financing it,” the Japanese embassy stated.
According to a Polio Eradication Programme official, the National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication endorsed by the prime minister calls for ensuring that all children are immunised, including those in high-risk and security-compromised parts of the country.
He said the government is lobbying for support from parliamentarians, the media and religious leaders to address issues like refusal and low coverage of vaccination in some areas particularly Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2012.