Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday urged parents to ensure that their children are administered with the anti-polio vaccine not only for the sake of their health but also for the nation.
While speaking at the launching ceremony of the Nationwide Polio Eradication Campaign in Islamabad, the premier pointed out that Pakistan is one of two countries in the world where polio continues to exist and termed it a "matter of shame".
"To the mothers who are watching this, I request you to go to the health workers and get your children vaccinated yourself if they haven't been administered with polio drops," he said. He said that around four million children under the age of five would be vaccinated in the ongoing campaign.
"This is important for your children and for our nation as well," he said.
"We all need to understand that if this disease starts spreading, it would have many repercussions on our country," the prime minister cautioned. "It would become very hard for our workers who go abroad, for our tourists and businessmen."
He said that now that the economy was improving and the government was promoting tourism, it would be a "stain" for Pakistan if people started to believe that the country was "exporting polio".
"I am aware that our polio workers have given a lot of sacrifices; militants targetted them, they were martyred. There was a lot of fear but still our polio workers went to remote areas where people thought no one could go [...] They are the heroes of our country."
He also thanked the donors who contributed to the polio drive and urged Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza to pay special attention to the issue.
Earlier, Dr Mirza had admitted that polio "remains a national emergency" for Pakistan. While speaking at the ceremony, he said that while the government knows polio's "epicentre" — where most cases were emerging from — the disease was being transmitted all across the country.
Until now, the countrywide tally for the year has reached 98 as compared to 12 in 2018 and eight in 2017. During the current year so far, 72 cases have been reported from KP, 14 from Sindh, seven from Balochistan and five from Punjab.