Federal Health Minister Qadir Patel says polio eradication efforts must be prioritized during this time of political transition
ISLAMABAD, JULY 19, 2023 – Federal Health Minister Qadir Patel held a National Task Force meeting on Wednesday with a delegation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, including the chair of the Polio Oversight Board, and said polio eradication is amongst his top priorities and must remain of prime importance for the interim government too.
The delegation was led by POB Chair Dr Chris Elias and included WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Region Dr Ahmad Al-Mandhari, UNICEF South Asia’s Deputy Regional Director Noala Skinner, CDC’s Polio Eradication Chief Dr Omotayo Bolu, Chief Programme Strategy Officer from Gavi-the Vaccine Alliance, Aurelia Nguyen, Rotary International’s Aziz Memon, and High Commissioner of Canada in Pakistan Leslie Scanlon.
The POB is the highest decision-making and oversight body of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
“I thank you all for your consistent efforts towards polio eradication and greatly appreciate your presence here in this time of political transition,” Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel said during the NTF meeting, which included representatives of the Pakistan Army, the Ministry of Health, and the leadership of the Polio Eradication Initiative and the Federal Directorate of Immunization (FDI), in addition to representatives of provincial governments.
The minister said that despite large-scale population displacement in the country with the floods last year, the polio programme has displayed remarkable resilience. “It really shows the strength of the programme that wild poliovirus transmission remained contained in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. With the climate catastrophe, there was a huge concern of poliovirus spread all over the country, but we didn’t see any case of polio outside the endemic zone. The perseverance of polio frontline workers, who work in the some of the most challenges circumstances, is remarkable.”
Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Center, Dr Shahzad Baig, said “Cross-border virus transmission between Pakistan and Afghanistan continues and the virus is once again showing us that both countries are one epidemiological bloc. The polio programmes of both countries need to work in sync to interrupt wild poliovirus transmission.”
Over 99% of the world has eradicated polio, while Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two endemic countries left in the world.