While reiterating UNICEF’s commitment to the eradication of polio in Pakistan, its Regional Director for South Asia, Daniel Toole emphasized the need to urgently improve local polio response, vaccination outreach, management and accountability for results. “We must ensure access to all children as specified in the President’s National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication in Pakistan. We have a huge task ahead of us, and we must build on lessons learned and act now,” Mr. Toole who is currently visiting Pakistan to meet senior government and UN officials, said.
According to the UNICEF, since the beginning of the year, Pakistan has continued to see rising numbers of polio cases (63 in 2011, compared to 36 cases in the same period last year). Balochistan has now reported 22 polio cases this year, more than any other province or region in the country.
The virus which circulated in the five high risk districts in Balochistan has now spread to districts previously not infected for the past five years, including Khuzdar, Noshki and Kholu.
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas Secretariat has reported 20 cases, Sindh has 14, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has six, and Gilgit-Baltistan has one case. Punjab, with 60 percent of Pakistan’s population, has not reported any cases of polio in 2011 – this is a major accomplishment that must be sustained.
The National Emergency Action Plan launched by the President in January 2011 identified the need to improve the quality of implementation and programme management as key risks for polio virus transmission.
UNICEF, along with other partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, including the World Health Organization, Rotary International, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has been actively supporting the government to increase awareness and knowledge about the disease that targets children.
Mr. Toole acknowledged that reaching every child with the two drops of polio vaccine is a challenge in Pakistan. He also emphasized that with firm commitment from local authorities, close follow-up, and by taking direct responsibility for reducing the number of polio cases, Pakistan can eradicate polio.
“The President’s Emergency Action Plan is taking hold across the country,” said Mr. Toole. “It is now vital for leaders at Provincial, District and Union Councils to be fully accountable and implement the vision of the Government.”
Eradicating polio from Pakistan depends on delivering oral polio vaccine to each and every child, including the most vulnerable and the hardest-to-reach.
The next polio vaccination campaign will be held 19-21 September 2011, targeting 16.5 million children in the districts at highest risk for continued circulation of polio virus.
Source: Associated Press of Pakistan