We need global guidance for polio eradication: Saira

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A two-day Technical Advisory Group (TAG) meeting comprising global public health experts on polio eradication started here on Thursday.

The meeting is also being attended by Regional Director of World Health Organization Dr Mahmoud Fikri who is on an official visit to Pakistan.

Addressing the meeting, Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar said that under the prime minister’s leadership the programme has been overhauled over the last two years.

“With the strongest of political will, unwavering commitment and resolve, consistent and collective hard work, we are today very close to achieving our cherished goal of stopping the transmission of poliovirus,” she said. The minister said, “As we complete the last mile in this fight against polio we look up to international experts for valuable guidance and support.”

She said the programme was being implemented at a massive scale across the country. Up to 37 million target children under-five were being vaccinated by around 220,000 vaccinators each month.

Significant gains have been made in every area of the programme. “I appreciate our frontline workers and everyone across the programme working directly and indirectly to support their work.”

“The pressure is on to address the remaining challenges against demanding timelines but we draw confidence from major gains made in the last two years,” the Minister said.

She appreciated the armed forces and all security agencies as due to their efforts, the inaccessible children across the country have been reduced to negligible levels by providing a safe and secure environment for the vaccination teams. “I appreciate their commitment to continue this support until the job is done,” the minister said.

Later, the minister held a detailed meeting with Regional Director of World Health Organization Dr Mahmoud Fikri. The meeting discussed ways and means to strengthening ongoing partnership between the Government of Pakistan and WHO.

Dr Mahmoud Fikri appreciated the major turnaround in polio eradication in Pakistan with dramatic reduction in polio cases to two cases this year. Regional Director WHO lauded the Prime Minister’s National Health Programme and said it was the most innovative means to providing universal health coverage to the people. The minister discussed with the visiting dignitary strengthening family practices in Pakistan to reduce burden on major hospitals in the country.