ISLAMABAD: Coordinator to the Prime Minister on National Health Services (NHS) Dr Malik Mukhtar Ahmed has suggested result-oriented dialogue with Afghanistan to combat the polio4.virus.

He was meeting Michael Galway and Hamid Jafri of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who called on him to discuss Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to eradicate the Polio virus.

The meeting, attended by Federal Secretary Iftikhar Ali Shallwani and DG Health NHS, underscored the crucial partnership between Pakistan and Gates Foundation in combating poliovirus.

According to a statement, during the meeting, Gates Foundation officials highlighted their close engagement with the Pakistan government on polio eradication. They said that Pakistan had made significant progress against the crippling disease.

Malik Mukhtar Ahmed said that 2024 was a pivotal year in the journey for making Pakistan polio free by 2026.

Coordinator to Prime Minister threw light on the challenges raised by population movements across the border with Afghanistan, the main reason of the recent outbreaks in certain areas. He stressed the necessity for a result-oriented dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan to effectively combat the poliovirus.

Dr Malik Mukhtar Ahmed also announced plans for a conference next month, bringing together stakeholders from all provinces to identify and address any existing loopholes in the eradication strategy.

Health secretary told the officials of Gates Foundation that the ministry was working on engaging local administrations to bridge communication gaps and engage communities in vulnerable areas. He highlighted the importance of community participation in achieving the shared goal of a polio-free Pakistan.

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 this 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 in the world to become polio-free, except for the two endemic countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2024

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