Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar lauds frontline polio workers at ceremony to mark World Polio Day; says Pakistan must end polio.

Islamabad, October 24, 2023 – Frontline health workers are the heroes of Pakistan, who working in challenging environments, facing social barriers and even threats to their safety without ever losing their dedication, said Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Tuesday.

Addressing a ceremony to mark World Polio Day at the PM Secretariat, the Prime Minister expressed his sincere gratitude to the hundreds of thousands of frontline workers who bring the life-saving polio vaccine to children across the country, protecting millions of children.

The event was organized by the Pakistan Polio Programme to pay homage to the resilience and dedication of frontline workers on World Polio Day which is commemorated on October 24 every year. The Prime Minister was the chief guest on the occasion, while Federal Health Minister Dr Nadeem Jan, Federal Health Secretary Iftikhar Ali Shallwani, representatives of polio partners Rotary, WHO and UNICEF, and frontline workers and their families were in attendance.  

The Prime Minister presented cheques to the families of three police constables who were martyred while on polio duty and to two vaccinators who were injured. PM Kakar also presented appreciation shields to the former coordinator of the Sindh EOC, Mr Fayyaz Abbasi and the family of Ms Huma Ashraf, who was severely injured in a train accident while on polio duty in September.

In his keynote speech, PM Kakar said: “Today is a day to remember how far we have come and how crucial polio eradication efforts remain. Pakistan cannot be the reason to hold the world back. We must move forward to 2024 with the realization that the weight of global eradication lies on our shoulders. We must leave no room for the virus to spread and reach every child with the vaccine before the virus has a chance to permanently change their lives.”

Federal Minister for Health Dr Nadeem Jan said: “Pakistan’s commitment to eradicating polio is unshakable. We will continue to strengthen our health systems and deliver vaccines to every child, ensuring their health and well-being. On this day, let’s pledge to march forward with determination, united in our fight against polio.”

Federal Health Secretary, in his remarks, highlighted Pakistan’s progress to wipe out this disease and added that despite successes, the work is far from over. “We will only celebrate once we reach zero polio,” he said.

Dr Shahzad Baig, Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Center for Polio Eradication, said: “Like other countries on the last leg of the journey, ours has been anything but smooth, marred with operational hurdles, societal mistrust, and the heartache that accompanies every setback. But we have never given up and every new day has only strengthened our resolve to persevere.”

The country heads of Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners, WHO’s Dr Palitha Mahipala, UNICEF’s Mr Abdullah Fadil and Rotary’s District Governor Mr Masrur J. Scheik also made remarks and pledged to continue to support Pakistan in this last mile of when the country is so much closer to eradication than ever before.