Pakistan could be next polio-free country: WHO

Updated 25 Oct 2020

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Pakistan could be the next country on the journey to a polio-free world, World Health Organisation Country Representative Dr Palitha Mahipala said on Saturday. — Photo courtesy: WHO Pakistan Twitter
Pakistan could be the next country on the journey to a polio-free world, World Health Organisation Country Representative Dr Palitha Mahipala said on Saturday. — Photo courtesy: WHO Pakistan Twitter

ISLAMABAD: After more than 30 years of effort, the African region was certified as free of wild polio in August this year, and Pakistan could be the next country on the journey to a polio-free world, World Health Organisation Country Representative Dr Palitha Mahipala said on Saturday.

Dr Mahipala was speaking at an event on World Polio Day, observed to recognise the contribution of the government of Pakistan, polio workers, caregivers, civil society and donors, who are part of the fight against polio in the country.

Dr Mahipala noted that the polio eradication programme and partners affirmed they will remain undeterred and urged all to get behind this national cause.

“Due to enormous challenges such as misconceptions about vaccines and the Covid-19 lockdowns, the efforts against polio have been affected. The polio programme, with its partners, has now been able to ramp-up activities which are vitalised resolve to end polio in Pakistan, as recently done by Africa,” he said.

He added that global partners, including WHO and Unicef, have contributed significantly while supporting the government in the effort to eradicate polio.

However, he said, more is needed to eradicate the disease once and for all; a key factor in its success is the hard work of more than 260,000 frontline workers.

Dr Palitha said: “They are our real heroes in this effort, and with the provided support, they have made us proud by vaccinating millions of children during each campaign.”

Highlighting the role of community and parents, he said that now, when polio immunisation activities have safely resumed in the country, it is highly necessary that every child is vaccinated.

He added it is the moral and social responsibility of the community, caregivers and parents to play their active role in vaccinating children against the disease.

As part of ongoing campaigns, the next sub-national polio eradication campaign will begin on Oct 26 with a target to vaccine more than 31 million children below the age of five.

The campaign will include 33 districts each in Punjab and Balochistan, 41 districts and towns in Sindh, eight districts in Gilgit Baltistan, 10 districts in Azad Kashmir and one district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

All routine immunisation centres have also resumed services and parents have been encouraged to vaccinate their children against all preventable diseases according to the advised schedule.

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2020