UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme: Polio to be eradicated from country by 2022


ISLAMABAD: Despite alarming upsurge in polio cases in Pakistan this year, the government of UAE has determined to eradicate polio from Pakistan entirely through its polio initiative in Pakistan called the Emirates Polio Campaign by the year 2022.

Pakistan is one of the two remaining countries in the world struggling to eradicate Polio, a virus that has not been seen in the rest of the world since 1990.

The latest government figures show Pakistan has seen 53 cases of the deadly disease this year, the highest tally since 2014, which was 306 and up from only 12 cases last year. The propaganda against polio vaccine and increase in number of refusal cases is a major cause behind the spike in cases in the country especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), which suffered the most as a total of 41 polio cases were reported there.

According to details, the Emirates Polio Campaign was launched in 2014 after 306 cases were reported in Pakistan which amounted to 85 per cent of the cases that year in the whole world.

It was launched under its flagship program of UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme (UAEPAP), which was started in 2010 and covers important development sectors like education, infrastructure, safe drinking water, healthcare and polio eradication.

Since 2014 till 2019, the number of cases reduced significantly due to the efforts of Emirates Polio Campaign and other partners helping the government of Pakistan.

Details showed that under the UAEPAP, a total of 71 million Pakistani children have been successfully vaccinated.

However, in 2019, the programme suffered a lot after a private school in Peshawar falsely reported children having a reaction to polio drops due to which the locals burnt a Basic Health Unit (BHU) and around 25,000 children were taken to various hospitals of Peshawar after those false rumors became viral.

Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Babar Bin Atta had to appeal to parents through a video statement to vaccinate their children and to avoid propaganda.

“The Peshawar polio drama created misconception due to which population of far-flung areas of KP are still reluctant to vaccinate their children. Parents should be aware that there is no cure for polio once the damage is done,” Atta said.

Details showed that the UAEPAP was launched keeping with UAE’s foreign policy under the directives of UAE President Sheikh bin Zayed Al Nahyan and after working for nine years, expanding their operations to include other provinces such as Balochistan.

The UAEPAP is providing healthcare facilities, particularly for the women and children who are generally marginalised in rural and tribal settings. For this purpose, the programme carried out nine different projects one of the largest of which is the Pak-Emirates Military Hospital in Rawalpindi with the capacity of more than 1,300 beds serving more than six million people annually, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan hospital in Swat and Sheikha Fatima Binte Mubarak Hospital in Sholam. This hospital is the first in the region to offer services like gynecology, dialysis, immunisation, intensive care and preventative medicine.

Amid the recent polio cases surge, the Emirates Polio Campaign reiterated its resolve to stand by Pakistan to eradicate polio entirely by the year 2022. Since 2011, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan has supported international campaigns to fight polio. Children of Pakistan are at constant risk of contracting this crippling disease.

Between 2014 and 2019, these efforts worked really well as the cases of polio in KP were reduced by 95 per cent during this time.

It is pertinent to mention here that keeping in view the recent spike in polio cases, Prime Minister Imran Khan, during a high level meeting on Wednesday, directed federal and provincial government officials to undertake effective awareness and immunisation campaigns so that the disease can be kept in check. The premier also announced leading the polio programme from November.