The UAE government has joined hands with the Pakistan government and the army in the fight against polio.
This was announced by the director of the UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme (UPAP) Abdullah al Ghefli at a symposium on polio eradication held on Wednesday in Islamabad. The event was organised by UPAP in collaboration with the Pakistan government, army and World Health Organisation (WHO).
Al Ghefli announced the launching of the Emirates Polio Campaign in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) under the motto of ‘healthy and bright future for all’.
Sharing details, he said that the three-month anti-polio drive will start from June this year and vaccinate 3,643,678 children in 13 districts of K-P and 11 districts of Fata.
“The Emirates Polio campaign will be executed in coordination with Pakistan Army, government health departments of Pakistan and WHO under the supervision of special medical cadres from respective authorities,” he said.
A media campaign will also coincide with the polio campaign to alert the public about the risk posed by such diseases and epidemics, he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Nima Abid from WHO said 110 children in Fata alone got paralysed due to polio last year. He said it is impossible to eradicate polio from Pakistan without reaching to children in Fata.
“The improper use of vaccination campaigns by certain agencies has adversely affected public health activities in the region, leading to declining participation of the locals,” he said.
“The first and foremost aim is to restore the trust of people of the region and we are positive that participation of UAE government will go a long way in building confidence in these public health activities.”
Dr Abid appreciated the role of Pakistan Army for providing secure environment to the polio workers and running an effective media campaign to educate people about the risk posed by polio.
Meanwhile, Maj Gen Muhammad Ayub, commandant of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, said it is commendable that the army has joined hands with the Pakistan government for eliminating polio from the country.
He said there were many areas in the tribal region where people were unwilling to vaccinate their children because of the fear of militants. But now terrorists in North and South Waziristan are asking locals to provide them polio vaccines for their own children, he added.
Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Ayesha Raza Farooq said it is a privilege for Pakistan that the UAE government has lent its support in the fight against polio.
She said 90% of Pakistan is already polio free and the army was aiding polio workers in reaching out to people in inaccessible areas.
“The efforts made by army have brought down a significant decline in the number of parental refusals for the polio vaccine,” she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2014.