Pakistan committed to eliminating polio: PM


Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said on Wednesday that Pakistan was committed to defeating polio at every cost and looked forward to strengthening its partnership with international organizations to further bolster anti-polio efforts.
In his message on the World Polio Day, the PM said, “Our children are our future and we cannot allow polio to cripple our future.”
He said, “Let us pledge that despite our recent successes, we will not rest unless the last child is immunized against this deadly disease.”
He said that a polio-free Pakistan was an important goal for the government. The World Polio Day being observed around the world, including Pakistan, was a reminder of the potency of danger posed by polio to the health of the country’s children. The prime minister said that the day served as a clarion call to further shore up efforts and to pool all resources to fight this scourge with unflinching determination and steel-like resolve. He said that the day also afforded an opportunity to acknowledge the services of those playing an active role in making anti-polio campaigns a success.
Ashraf said that polio is a deadly disease, which had the potential of crippling children. He regretted that Pakistan was one of the few countries where polio still existed and threatened its children. “We cannot and will not allow this disease to play havoc with the future of our children,” he said. He said that eradicating polio from Pakistan was a national goal as well as a mission for the government of Pakistan. “It is my belief that no challenge can overpower a noble ambition that has a resolute political commitment behind it,” he added.
The prime minister said that the passion to make Pakistan a polio-free country had its roots in the very ideals espoused by Benazir Bhutto. He mentioned that Benazir had launched an anti-polio drive for the first time while she was in office in 1994, by administering polio drops to her daughter Aseefa Bhutto Zardari who, as the Ambassador for Polio Eradication nominated by the UNICEF, had been at the fore of national anti-polio campaigns.
He said that the fight against polio was being led by the National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP), which had been developed in consultation with all stakeholders including provincial governments and international partners. He said that NEAP was premised on three pillars, namely greater ownership, oversight, and accountability. Strong political commitment by the top federal and provincial leadership was a key element of this strategy, he said.
Ashraf said that reaching out to children in security threatened regions of the country, particularly in FATA, was a key challenge, which had hampered the government’s efforts to eradicate polio from the country.
He said that in order to tackle this challenge, the government had focused on increasing civil-military coordination and designing anti-polio campaigns in the light of local conditions. He mentioned that special polio points had been established on agency borders to make sure that each child moving in and out of FATA was immunized. He said that the government had also engaged local religious scholars, teachers and parliamentarians to effectively reach out to local communities.
As a result of these measures a significant improvement in the situation had been observed and fewer cases had been reported this year as compared to last year, he said. The prime minister said that the Independent Monitoring Board of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative acknowledged in its report, released in June 2012, that Pakistan had improved its performance vis-à-vis polio.