Islamabad, April 19, 2024 – The National Emergency Operations Center for Polio Eradication organized a briefing for the donors and partner organizations supporting the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) to apprise them on the progress of polio eradication efforts in the country.

Coordinator to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Regulations and Coordination Dr Malik Mukhtar Ahmad Bharath was the chief guest, while Federal Health Secretary Mr Nadeem Mahboob, country representatives of WHO and UNICEF, Trustee Rotary Foundation and Pakistan National Polio Plus Committee Chairman Mr Aziz Memon, and representatives from donor agencies were in attendance.

In his address, Dr Malik Mukhtar Ahmad Bharath said that Pakistan is committed to fulfilling its obligations under global public health and eradicating polio to make the dream of a polio-free world a reality.

Highlighting the Polio Programme’s progress, he said: “With the support of our valued partners and donors we are running the largest polio eradication programme in the world backed by an extensive poliovirus surveillance network and modern lab. Yet we continue to detect cases, which means we still have a lot more work to do to ensure that every child is protected,” he said.

He added: “The strong commitment and dedication of our partner agencies and donors has been crucial in bringing us this close to polio eradication. I hope that this support continues as Pakistan positions itself to interrupt poliovirus transmission this year.”

Addressing the gathering, Health Secretary Mr Nadeem Mahboob said that the Health Ministry is providing full support to the Polio Programme as it endeavors to reach every child with the vaccine. 

“I extend my profound gratitude to our donors and partner agencies for their commitment to the wellbeing of Pakistan’s children and support for strengthening health systems,” he said.

NEOC Coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig gave a briefing on the current epidemiological situation, progress, challenges and needs. He highlighted that in the coming months, the Programme will focus on intensifying vaccination rounds, strengthening vaccination at the border and reaching communities with health services to create goodwill and trust.

Dr Baig facilitated a discussion with the guests with the aim of strengthening collaborative efforts in the mission of polio eradication.

Representatives from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partner agencies, including WHO and UNICEF, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary International, US-CDC, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Canadian High Commission, Asian Development Bank, Australian High Commission, French Development Bank, US-AID, KFW, and Qatar Charity graced the occasion and reaffirmed their commitment to supporting Pakistan in its journey to eradicate polio.

Speaking on behalf of UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Mr Abdullah Fadil, Ms Melissa Corkum, the UNICEF National Polio Team Lead, said: “We have made clear progress towards stopping polio. But even one polio case is a public health crisis and threatens to undo our years of hard work. If there was ever a time where we need to re-ignite our collective efforts, to be strong and united as partners, it is now.”

Dr Luo Dapeng, WHO Representative in Pakistan said: “An investment in polio eradication makes a huge difference to children not just in Pakistan, but the world. As we move closer to polio eradication in Pakistan, it is critical that the ongoing support of partner and donor agencies continues so that the gains we have made can remain in place and we cross the finish line.”

Note for the Editor:

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of five years. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this disease. Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus is increased. Repeated immunisations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio-free, besides the two endemic countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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