KARACHI, Dec 15: President Asif Ali Zardari wants eradication of polio from all provinces, including Sindh, latest by December 2011 and in this regard a national emergency action plan 2011 has also been drafted.

Sindh, which reported so far 26 polio cases in 2010, is now faced with enormous challenges as it, after an increase in the number of high-risk districts to 12 from five, is now required to work out a fresh district-specific plan addressing the peculiarities of the province.

This was stated by special secretary of the provincial health department, Seema Najib, who attended the fourth meeting of the inter-provincial ministerial committee on polio (IPCP) last week in Islamabad.

The meeting was chaired by Federal Health Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin while, among others, the health ministers from Gilgit-Baltistan and the AJK also participated. Dawn

The special secretary told that the provincial expanded programme on immunisation — which besides undertaking the responsibility of routine immunisation of children also conducts the national polio-supplementary dose campaigns — had already started examining the polio situation in the province and reviewing the principles and guidelines set in the National Emergency Action Plan 2011 for polio eradication in the country.

She said that the participants of the inter-provincial meeting had been told that the president had desired all-out commitments from the provinces towards intensive and quality anti-polio campaigns during the first half of 2011 and no reporting of polio cases in the second half of the year.

“We are in the process of developing an emergency plan aimed at stopping polio transmission by the end of 2011. Our experts are working on a plan that puts in place a system of management, monitoring and accountability and required a renewed zeal and determination right at the union council level as well,” she said.

She said that a meeting under the chairmanship of Sindh Health Minister Dr Sagheer Ahmad would also be held in this regard soon after Ashura.

In the meantime, according to recorded details of the Islamabad meeting, the federal health minister had also spoken to Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to gain enhanced access to insecure areas of the country and planned to have a formal meeting with him soon.

“I feel totally embarrassed and humbled in the comity of nations when Pakistan is mentioned to have highest number of polio cases. I request all of you (participants of the meeting) to save me,” the federal health minister was quoted as saying according to the meeting details.

The national manager of the EPI, Dr Altaf A Bosan, informed the meeting that in Pakistan, which reported the highest polio cases in 2010 among all the polio endemic countries including India and Nigeria, the bulk of cases was from Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and associated areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and floods affected areas in the interior of Sindh and adjoining districts of Balochisitan.

The polio situation turned alarming in Sindh after a surge of cases in the last few months.

Three towns in Karachi reported one case each, while Ghotki reported 12, Kambar three, Sanghar and Khairpur two cases each, and Jacobabad, Kashmore, Hyderabad and Sukkur reported one each case in 2010. Sindh reported a total 12 cases in 2009.

The provincial chief of the vaccination programme, Dr Mazhar Khamesani said that the number of high-risk districts and towns had now risen to 12 from five in the beginning of the year.

The high-risk districts are Karachi (Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Baldia and Gadap towns), Hyderabad, Jacobabad, while the extended high-risk districts are Ghotki, Kambar, Kashmore, Khairpur, Larkana, Shikarpur and Sukkur, the manager said and added that the Sindh health department and the EPI would concentrate efforts on the highest risk areas and ensure that all children in these areas area were reached with polio vaccine during every immunisation round.

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