PESHAWAR, Dec 13: The government in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund has launched “School Heroes Initiative” programme in high-risk districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas to formally enlist support of teachers and students in polio campaigns to eradicate the vaccine-preventable childhood ailment.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony of the programme here on Thursday, Senior Provincial Minister Rahimdad Khan said that polio eradication was a national cause and urged the students to join the fight against the disease and protect their fellows from lifelong disability.

He appreciated the efforts of Unicef and health department, and assured all out support in the joint venture against the disease.

Initially, the pilot project has been started in 1,000 schools in four high-risk districts, including Peshawar, Charsadda, Nowshera and Mardan, where around 10,000 students would be trained as school heroes.

Deputy director Expanded Programme on Immunisation, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr Jan Baz Afridi in his address thanked the education department for joining the war against polio. He said that the objective of the initiative was to involve students and teachers in the war against polio and this event marks the start of this joint venture that would lead us to polio-free Pakistan.

He said that 5.2 million children would be vaccinated during anti-polio campaign starting from December 17, adding that 16,000 teams had been formed for door to door campaign.

Unicef’s provincial chief Wafa Saeed said that Pakistan had made huge progress in  the fight against polio, adding that “we know our objective and have the means to address it”.

She said that the project goal was to reach every child and the students could play a decisive role in this regard as they can pass on the message to those children who missed the vaccination.

Special secretary Secondary and Elementary Education Mussarat Hussain said that education department would fully support the health department in its efforts to eliminate polio from the country.

District Khateeb Qari Roohullah Madani urged all segments of the society to play their role in creating awareness of the disease.

Later, the senior minister administered polio drops to the children to inaugurate the three-day anti-polio drive in the province.

In Ghalanai, a ceremony was held at government higher secondary school on Thursday to launch the ‘School Heroes Initiative’ and root out polio from Mohmand Agency. Additional political agent Abdul Hameed Jan was the chief guest.

Agency surgeon Dr Farooq Shah, agency education officer Said Mohammad and other officials and students were also present on the occasion.

The programme was launched in 35 selected schools of Mohmand tribal region where 608 students would take part in the polio campaigns. They would go from door to door to convince people on getting their children vaccinated against the crippling disease.

The agency surgeon told Dawn that Mohmand Agency had recorded a polio case in the recent past. He said that the affected child belonged to Pandiali tehsil and they had planned to focus the area.

In Lakki Marwat, DCO Nisar Ahmad asked doctors and paramedics on Thursday to strengthen union council level polio eradication committees and record data of refusal cases and children not available at their homes.

He was speaking at a meeting, which was also attended by EDO health Dr Abdul Ghaffar and polio eradication officer Dr Adnan.

Mr Ahmad said that the administration would adopt persuasion strategy instead of harsh measures to convince parents on vaccination of their children.