War against disease: Significant decrease in polio cases, says UNICEF

International donor agencies asked to help handle BCG shortage

Our Correspondent/APP July 09, 2015


The country representative of UNICEF Ms Angela Kearney has said there has been a decrease in polio cases due to concerted efforts by government and frontline workers. She emphasised that cross segments of society needed to play a role in stamping out the crippling disease from the region.

She shared these remarks during her visit to Emergency Operation Center (EOC) K-P here on Wednesday. EOC Coordinator Dr Akbar Khan, Regional Coordinator UNICEF Rod Curtis and Chief Field Officer UNICEF Micheal Juma were present on the occasion.

Ms Angela Kearney paid tributes to polio workers for their sacrifices in the line of duty that aimed to achieve the global cause of polio eradication. She appreciated the establishment of EOCs that is playing key role in streamlining all the efforts for polio eradication in the country.

Read: Coordinated action: Islamabad, Kabul vow polio-free border areas

She said that K-P and FATA were the spotlight and focus of the world due to polio. She appreciated that despite a number of challenges downward trend has been observed in polio cases in Pakistan. UNICEF representative also touched upon successful initiatives undertaken by UNICEF with government support that provide free of cost healthcare facilities to the underserved people at their doorsteps.

The health camps was a successful intervention launched under ‘Sehat Ka Ittehad’ in K-P with more than 10,000 zero dose children vaccinated for the first time. In view of its success and demand by the public, it would continue in the upcoming low transmission season in the province, she added.

Ms Angela assured all-out support on behalf of UNICEF till the last missed child. This support was extended to routine immunization, measles and other vaccine preventable diseases.

Meanwhile, the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) has been facing an acute shortage of BCG vaccines and synergies for the last four months. This has put lives of over six million newborns at stake.

Talking to The Express Tribune, EPI Coordinator, Balochistan, Dr Shakir Baloch said the province has been facing acute shortage of BCG vaccine for months now.

“I have raised this issue several times and have also conveyed it to international donor agencies to resolve the issue immediately,” he said.

He said over the last few months very few newborns had been vaccinated for TB. This was making them prone to develop this disease later in life which is worrisome.

Read: First polio case of 2015 emerges in Balochistan

A senior official at EPI, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) said provincial EPIs usually get limited stock of vaccines making it difficult to manage when a shortage begins.

When contacted Dr Saqlain Gillani, the national manager EPI said that they were very well aware of the issue. They were making all efforts to facilitate provinces by fulfilling their needs for the vaccines.

He said they have given tender for procuring BCG vaccine and hopefully the issue will be resolved soon. Meanwhile there are some international donor agencies who are also interested to support Pakistan in this cause, he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2015.


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