ISLAMABAD: Minister for National Health Services (NHS) Abdul Qadir Patel on Monday said polio eradication was the topmost priority of the government and acknowledged the services of polio workers who supported Pakistan through the most difficult times from Covid-19 vaccination to the flood relief efforts.
He was speaking at an event held to mark the World Polio Day with the theme of “A healthier future for mothers and children.”
At the ceremony, tributes were paid to over 370,000 workers protecting millions of Pakistani children from polio. The Polio Programme on the occasion honoured 10 frontline health workers for their excellent performance.
“We cannot thank our frontline staff deeply enough for their services to humanity. The women health workers who lead eradication efforts for polio are protecting children in Pakistan and children all over the world from preventable, lifelong paralysis,” the health minister said after awarding shields to the workers.
Women workers protecting children against preventable, lifelong paralysis, minister says
Mr Patel said Pakistan had made great strides in the fight against polio with virus circulation reduced to only one small part of the country.
“If we can eliminate the poliovirus from southern KP, we will succeed in eliminating polio from Pakistan altogether. We are actually quite close to the finish line and are determined to get there as soon as possible,” he said.
He thanked the international community, donors and global polio eradication partners for their support in the fight against polio as well as parents and caregivers for recognising the importance of protecting their children from the virus. He particularly mentioned Rotary for their stalwart support over many years.
Mr Patel also launched a sub-national polio campaign by administering drops to children. During this five-day campaign, over 25 million children under five years of age will be vaccinated in 83 districts of Pakistan, including southern KP.
National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) Coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig said since the polio eradication programme was launched in 1994, there had been a massive decline in polio cases in Pakistan, where approximately 20,000 children were paralysed every year in the early 1990s.
“It is rare to see the level of dedication anywhere else as we see in polio teams. Polio workers were affected by the floods, many had their homes damaged and destroyed but they still reached children with the life-saving vaccine,” he said.
“With continued support from our health workers, parents and the community, I am certain that we can make this disease history,” Dr Baig added.
Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of five years.
It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death.
While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from the crippling disease. Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus is increased.
Repeated immunisations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries to become polio-free. Pakistan is one of the two polio-endemic countries in the world along with Afghanistan.
Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2022