ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif kicked off a three-day nationwide polio eradication campaign by administering polio drops to children at a ceremony held here on Sunday.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where polio continues to cripple children as its virus affects the nervous system of children ultimately leading to paralysis.
Over 44 million children will be administered polio drops during the campaign.
In nine districts of Hyderabad division and seven districts of Karachi division, the anti-polio campaign will be launched from Jan 23 to 27 due to local government elections.
In seven districts of southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the campaign was conducted from Jan 2 to 4.
Over 44m children will be administered polio drops during the drive
Addressing the ceremony, the prime minister said that the drive was being launched to fight the polio cases. He said the last year’s floods had disrupted the polio drive, but despite all those difficulties, polio workers vaccinated children with great commitment.
He said about 20 cases of polio had been reported from Waziristan, but due to consistent efforts such cases were restricted and they did not spread to other parts of the country.
Mr Sharif also appreciated efforts of frontline workers and law-enforcement agencies’ personnel who embraced martyrdom while performing their polio duty.
“I have the conviction that all provincial governments, along with the federal government, would continue to collaborate with each other to eradicate this crippling disease forever,” he said.
The premier also appreciated efforts of World Health Organisation (WHO), related departments, law-enforcement personnel and daughters of the nation (lady health workers) for their continuing efforts to achieve the objective of a polio-free Pakistan.
The prime minister on this occasion gave away certificates to the best performing polio workers.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued here on Sunday, Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel said that although 20 polio cases were reported during the current year, fortunately the virus was restricted to tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as all the cases had been reported from that area.
Talking to Dawn, Ministry of Health spokesman Sajid Shah said efforts were being made to curb the virus during the low transmission season.
During the winter season the virus of the crippling disease becomes less active and chances of it causing infection decrease due to which winter is called the low-transmission season. During high temperature, from April to September, the virus becomes very active.
A total of 44.2 million children under five years of age will be targeted for vaccination during the campaign including 22.5m children in Punjab; 10.2m in Sindh; 7.46m in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 2.6m in Balochistan; 0.72m in AJK, 0.28m in Gilgit-Baltistan and 0.42m in Islamabad.
During the campaign, the bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV) would be administered in all areas.
The Vitamin-A supplement would also be administered along with the polio drops to the children to boost up their immunity against all infectious diseases.
A total of 359,614 frontline polio workers will take part in the campaign, including 35,903 Area in charges; 9,539 UC Medical Officers/UCDOs; 288,162 mobile team members, 11,209 fixed team members and 12,340 Transit team members.
The National and Provincial emergency operation centres (EOCs) have deployed experts on ground from all relevant domains in high-risk and vulnerable areas to facilitate preparedness and implementation of the campaign activities.
A seven-day polio drive in 34 districts of Balochistan will also start from Monday. According to an official, around 2.5m children of up to five years would be administered polio drops during the week.
Saleem Shahid in Quetta also contrebuted to this report
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2023