LAHORE, April 18: International health partners will meet here on Friday (today) to help the Punjab government, which is in dire need of an estimated Rs3 billion to launch an anti-measles campaign, reach 30.3 million target children.

The proposed campaign would be launched before monsoon to protect children from the life-threatening infectious disease, a senior government official said.

He said the meeting was being described as a ‘critical one’ in the wake of the recent outbreak of the measles which has claimed lives of more than 50 children since January.

Representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO), Unicef, GAVI, World Bank, etc., will participate in the ‘donors conference’ at the Chief Minister Secretariat and the Punjab government is expecting a major share by them to generate funds for the procurement of the vaccine.

The official said Chief Minister Najam Sethi had given green signal for bearing all expenses on the routine immunisation to reach the target children and the operational cost of the campaign in case the international health partners refused to pledge any amount.

The Punjab Health Department, which is one of the major stakeholders of this conference, has completed presentation to brief the donors on the outcome of the recent immunisation campaigns.

Health Secretary Arif Nadeem strongly dispelled an impression that the routine immunisation coverage in Punjab remained critically low.

“We have documents regarding independent surveys which say the recent immunisation coverage in the largest province remained 63 per cent,” Arif Nadeem told Dawn. He said the Punjab government needed Rs3 billion to launch the largest-ever immunisation campaign before monsoon.

“More than 30.3 million children between six months and 10 years will be brought under the proposed immunisation campaign in Punjab,” Mr Nadeem said. He said the Punjab government had pinned high hopes on the moot wherein its key partners would be asked to contribute funds for the procurement of the vaccine.

At present, he said Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Rahim Yar Khan and DG Khan were most vulnerable to the measles.

At least 111 children suffering from measles were hospitalised in Lahore on Thursday.

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