Islamabad, June 24, 2024 – Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired a meeting of the National Task Force for Polio Eradication on Monday with Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in attendance.

The PM said Pakistan has made significant progress against polio thanks to the dedication of frontline workers, government leadership and partner support, but as long as the virus continues to circulate and paralyze children, the work is not over.

He emphasized on provincial governments to lead polio eradication efforts in their regions with a sense of urgency to interrupt wild poliovirus transmission.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs crucial polio eradication task force meeting

“Five polio cases have been reported this year. We cannot continue to let our children remain at risk from a disease that is entirely preventable,” said PM Sharif, adding that we must diligently ensure that every child in this country receives multiple doses of the vaccine and is protected against polio.

The NTF is a high-level forum led by the Prime Minister and includes provincial Chief Ministers, Chief Secretaries, Prime Minister of AJK and Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan as members. The forum meets regularly to share progress on polio eradication, discuss challenges and tackle the remaining barriers to polio eradication. 

Coordinator to the PM on National Health Services Dr Malik Mukhtar Ahmed Bharath said that Pakistan is facing a poliovirus outbreak that is threatening to undo a lot of the progress made in recent years. “We must work urgently to control the spread of the virus and close all outbreaks, and we must vaccinate every child against polio to ensure that the virus finds no place to thrive,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, the BMGF Co-Chair, Bill Gates, appreciated Pakistan’s progress against polio and said that the good work done so far must continue with enhanced focus for the next six months to keep the positive momentum going.

He said BMGF remains committed to polio eradication in Pakistan and will continue to support polio as well as other health services. “I am confident that by continuing to work together, implementing innovative approaches, and staying vigilant, Pakistan will make great strides toward ending polio,” he added.

Captain (Retd) Muhammad Anwarul Haq, the Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Center for Polio Eradication said that through repeated vaccination campaigns the Polio Programme has restricted the indigenous poliovirus to the endemic region of southern KP and this virus has not been detected in the country in over six months.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs crucial polio eradication task force meeting

He further said, “We are facing challenges in implementing successive polio drives in several areas, particularly in security compromised areas and some parts of Balochistan, but the Programme remains resilient and under the leadership of the Health Ministry and support of law-enforcement agencies, we will continue to strive to reach every child.”

The NTF meeting came at a critical time when five polio cases have been reported in the country this year and the virus has been found in environmental samples of more than 40 districts, including previously cleared districts like Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta.

The provincial leadership reiterated the government’s commitment to polio eradication and assured the PM of ensuring leadership of all polio eradication activities in their regions.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs crucial polio eradication task force meeting

Note to 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 crippling 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, except for the two endemic countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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