Polio Eradication to stay on top of the Government’s Health Agenda

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Federal Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination praises programme efforts to protect every child from polio

ISLAMABAD, 27 August 2018: During a high-level briefing today at the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC), the Federal Minister of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Aamir Mehmood Kiyani, affirmed Government’s full support of the polio eradication as a top national priority. Besides others, the meeting was attended by the Secretary and Director General of M/o NHSR&C, Representative of the Armed Forces as well as the country leads of WHO, UNICEF, NSTOP and BMGF.

“Pakistan has made remarkable progress in protecting every child from this devastating, yet vaccine preventable, disease. The nation has reduced the number of polio cases from almost 20,000 every year in the early 1990s to only eight last year. From 2014 until today, new polio cases have dropped by an amazing 99 per cent -- from 306 in 2014 to 3 this year. We must sustain these gains and continue to ensure every child is reached in every vaccination campaign,” said Minister Kiyani. “The progress is a direct result of the collective efforts of our brave frontline workers, backed by law enforcement agencies, and unprecedented Government commitment at all levels. The programme is driven by high-quality data and comprehensive, real-time risk assessment and monitoring, which is resulting in better campaign quality,” the Minister said.

“I assure you that my ministry is committed to accelerating this remarkable progress and getting the job done in accordance with the visions of my Prime Minister, who is keen on ensuring basic health, nutrition, and water and safe sanitation services are available for all Pakistanis.” Kiyani went on saying. Expressing confidence in the quality, efficacy and safety of the oral polio vaccine, the Minister advised the programme to constantly educate people on need to vaccinate all under five children in every campaign.

During the briefing, NEOC National Coordinator Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar shared the progress as well as the efforts being made to overcome the remaining challenges. “As long as the virus is present anywhere in the country, no child is safe. In 2018, no cases have been recorded in the country’s high-risk reservoir areas however, the vulnerability remains due to isolated pockets of suboptimal immunity” said Dr. Safdar. “Getting to zero is our ultimate and urgent goal. Despite only three cases limited to one district (Dukki, Balochistan) in 2018, the wild polio virus continues to appear in the environment of key urban centers of Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta. During the final push, it is imperative to further strengthen programme performance and accelerate routine immunization for sustaining the gains we have made together” Dr Safdar said.

Dr. Safdar also briefed the Minister on the National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) 2018/19, which commits the programme to pursue its core strategies and calls for new strategies and improvements, including a comprehensive vaccination schedule comprised of four NIDs and five Sub-National Immunization Days; monitoring and supportive supervision, synchronising and coordination with the Afghanistan Polio Eradication Programme; as well as improving vaccine acceptance through a new “Communication for Eradication” strategy that is data-driven to reach and vaccinate all children.

Minister Kiyani concluded the briefing with high praise for the country team including 260,000 frontline workers ‘Sehat Muhafiz’ and termed them as national heroes striving for health of future generations. “All of us at the ministry support their brave and hard work and we will continue and accelerate our support,” said Minister Kiyani.

The Minister also planted a tree at the National Emergency Operations Centre and urged all participants to join the campaign for a green Pakistan.