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Caretaker’s controversial step: Polio cell abolished

Updated May 29, 2013 01:07pm
A health worker marks an infant after immunisation with anti-polio drops in Lahore. — Photo by AP
A health worker marks an infant after immunisation with anti-polio drops in Lahore. — Photo by AP

ISLAMABAD, May 28: The caretaker government took another controversial step by abolishing the Prime Minister Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell, established by the Pakistan Peoples Party government in 2011.

According to a notification, the caretaker prime minister has approved the dissolution of the Polio Cell with immediate effect. The Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination would be the apex nodal ministry for the Polio Eradication Initiative.

Under the cell, the number of polio cases had been reduced to 58 in 2012 from the 198 cases in 2011 (a 70 percent decrease).

Former adviser to the Prime Minister for polio eradication, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, condemned the move and lashed out at the caretaker government.

“It is a very surprising move and will give a bad message to the donor agencies and the world community. It would show that the Pakistani government did not fulfill its commitments,” she told Dawn.

“The caretaker government has now placed the monitoring cell under the Ministry of National Health Services which is against the 18th amendment. Under the amendment, it is clearly stated that health is the subject of provinces,” she said.

High ranking officials associated with international donor agencies working with the polio cell have also expressed their disappointment regarding the decision. “We received a shock when we heard the polio monitoring cell was being dissolved,” said an official of an international donor agency requesting anonymity.

Caretaker Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Arif Nizami was not aware of the move. Similarly, Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso’s spokesman Shafqat Jaleel, when approached, said the decision had not been announced and he was not aware of it. — A Reporter