Pakistan reaffirms support for ending polio
A Pakistani child receives oral polio vaccine. Photo courtesy of World Health Organization
“We all have to play our full role to turn the dream of a polio-free Pakistan into reality,” declared Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on the first day of the country’s 19-21 August National Immunization Days. Gilani launched the NIDs by administering drops of polio vaccine to a child in Islamabad.
Before the NIDs, the prime minister had expressed concern over the increase in polio cases in Pakistan. As of 12 August, 27 cases have occurred in 2008, compared to 32 cases in all of 2007. He directed the national health ministry and provincial health departments to ensure that no child would be left unimmunized during the NIDs.
Gilani also called the Global Polio Eradication Initiative a great combined effort and lauded the work of provincial health departments, undertaken in collaboration with the World Health Organization, Rotary International, UNICEF, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and nongovernmental organizations.
The primary areas of indigenous poliovirus transmission in Pakistan are the provinces of North-West Frontier, Balochistan, and Sindh, which includes Karachi. Transmission in North-West Frontier and Balochistan is mostly due to the highly mobile population and people living in areas of insecurity.
The resurgence of polio cases in Sindh is mainly the result of operational challenges. In response, Federal Minister for Health Sherry Rehman has directed the ministry to strengthen dialogue with provincial and district level authorities and more effectively coordinate polio immunization efforts with the health, education, and family welfare departments.
In addition, the Sindh government is taking several steps to make the province polio-free, including
- Conducting Subnational Immunization Days every month
- Involving religious leaders in social mobilization efforts to persuade families to have their children immunized
- Promoting the importance of child immunization in the news media
- Carrying out mop-up campaigns to immunize children previously missed
In June, The Rotary Foundation awarded US$5.9 million to the World Health Organization and UNICEF for social mobilization activities and operational support in Pakistan.
Rotary clubs are also increasing their participation in Pakistan’s effort to end polio. “All [Rotarian] volunteers have been instructed to personally join the polio vaccinating teams, especially in remote areas of the country, to make sure that no children remain unattended by the teams,” said Almas Ali Jovinda, of the Rotary Club of Lahore Mozang.