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ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of National Health Services and Regulations, Friday, while reaffirming Pakistan’s resolve to eradicate poliovirus from the country has called upon global partners for continued and stronger support.

This was stated by Federal Secretary Health Iftikhar Ali Shallwani, while virtually addressing a special session on polio eradication during the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Board meeting. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to ending polio and called for continued support and stronger global partnerships to help Pakistan reach this key milestone.

The special session was aimed to shore up support for childhood vaccinations across member states and to mark 50 years of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) which was launched globally in 1974 to combat communicable diseases through systematic mass vaccination efforts.

Highlighting the instrumental role of mass vaccinations in reducing childhood mortality and protecting millions from diseases such as measles and polio, Secretary Shallwani said: “Childhood vaccination rates in Pakistan have significantly increased since the launch of EPI in 1978. Today, endemic polio is restricted to a small region in Southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) with only six reported cases last year, which is a testament to our progress.”

He added that Pakistan’s target remained zero cases and the country was much closer to that goal than ever before. He said that despite serious challenges such as insecurity, access issues, and refusals, persisting in some parts of the country, Pakistan was making progress in the right direction. “Pakistan’s tenacity and resilience, coupled with strong partnerships are driving the country forward as in the past month during the nationwide five-day-long campaign, over 44.3 million children under five years of age constituting approximately 19 percent of the national population were given oral polio drops,” he said.

The health secretary also highlighted the strong synergy and partnership between the country’s EPI and Polio Eradication Programme to reach children with life-saving vaccines, stating that continued support to strengthen EPI is needed to help sustain zero polio after eradication.

The secretary called for global solidarity and continued support from partners such as UNICEF. “I want to thank UNICEF for being a champion of public health in Pakistan and for standing by us, during the highs and lows. Together, we can make polio eradication a historic legacy.”

He further informed the participants during the recent polio eradication drive polio teams successfully administered oral drops in Lakki Marwat and South Waziristan, Upper and Lower Dir like areas.

Shallwani said that more than 400,000 vaccinators reached out to the doorstep of the children. In Punjab, 22.6 million children were vaccinated, while 10.3 million children in Sindh, 7.5 million children in KPK, 2.6 million children in Balochistan, 0.72 million children in AJK, 0.28 million children in GB, and 0.42 million children in Islamabad.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over the past 35 years in a bid to eradicate polio worldwide more than 10 billion doses of the oral polio vaccine have been given to children worldwide since 1988.

The WHO said that at present, the world is left with a small number of children in only two countries, at most 250,000 – 300,000 of persistently missed children in two provinces in eastern Afghanistan and seven districts in southern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) of Pakistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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