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Chief ministers told to lead anti-polio campaigns

Chief ministers told to lead anti-polio campaigns

PESHAWAR: Prime Minister Imran Khan has asked the chief ministers to lead the anti-polio vaccination campaigns in their respective provinces to ensure a quality nationwide campaign from Dec 16 for the elimination of the crippling disease.

In a letter sent to all chief ministers on Dec 4, special assistant to the prime minister on national health services Dr Zafar Mirza revealed that the prime minister had instructed the chief ministers during an August meeting of the national task force on healthcare to play a leading role in the polio eradication efforts by reviewing preparations and inaugurating campaigns in their respective provinces to ensure the elimination of the childhood disease.

PM special assistant says efforts to eliminate virus being reinvigorated

He said the collective hard work had led to a decline in polio cases from almost 20,000 per year in early 1990s to only 12 last year but the dream of eliminating the virus hadn’t been materialised yet.

“Unfortunately, we have witnessed a major reversal of polio gains in 2019 as a total of 91 cases, including 66 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 13 from Sindh, seven from Balochistan and five from Punjab, have been reported this year,” he said.

Dr Mirza said though the polio virus was widely detected in sewage samples collected from different geographical zones of the country, the government was committed to addressing all challenges hampering eradication.

He said based on the findings of the programme reviews and recommendations of the Technical Advisory Group and Independent Monitoring Board, the National Emergency Action Plan for 2020 was being devised to re-invigorate efforts and focus on taking the initiative forward as a shared priority across the political divide, regaining the ‘One Team’ approach, and strengthening the delivery of routine immunisation and other basis health services along with high quality door-to-door vaccination campaigns.

The special assistant said the first nationwide campaign of low transmission season was scheduled to begin on Dec 16 and therefore, the chief ministers were requested to convene a meeting of the provincial task force on healthcare to personally review preparations for campaigns and inaugurate them.

When contacted, national coordinator for the polio eradication prorgamme Dr Rana Mohammad Safdar said the chief ministers had been requested in line with the premier’s directives to lead anti-polio efforts.

He said more than 99 per cent targeted children were vaccinated during a recent campaign in 11 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the same spirit would be reflected in national campaigns as well.

“Our biggest success is the development of a consensus that polio eradication is everybody’s concern and is a shared responsibility. We have brought the top political leadership to a common understanding on polio eradication as a high priority national agenda,” he said.

Dr Safdar said the Sindh chief minister took a critical review of the Dec anti-polio campaign preparedness in his province on Friday, while his counterparts in other provinces would follow suit next week.

“A total of 39.5 million children under the age of five years will be vaccinated during the Dec National Immunisation Days to be followed by three more NIDs and thee sub-NIDs next year,” he said.

The coordinator said in a meeting held in Abu Dhabi a month ago, Pakistan presented a four-pronged approach to end the current crisis regarding the circulation of polio virus.

He said the approach was about de-politicising the programme, strengthening the routine immunisation coverage, reviving the One Team approach with stringent accountability, and going beyond the polio virus in highest risk areas to offer an integrated package of basic health services, including routine immunisation, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2019

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