ISLAMABAD: Despite the recent surge in polio cases amid several challenges in Pakistan, the crusade against polio continued with full might to defeat the crippling disease from the country once and for all.
Though the global drive to eradicate the crippling disease has made significant gains worldwide, Pakistan is still among the two countries which are still suffering the effects of this disease.
The recent surge in polio cases in the country, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), has forced the government and the donor agencies especially the UAE government to speed up their efforts under the Polio Endgame Strategy 2019-2023 released by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) to make the strategy a success.
The UAE under its flagship programme UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme (UAEPAP) has launched Emirates Polio Campaign back in 2014 after 306 cases were reported in Pakistan, which so far reached to 16 million children in Pakistan, besides mobilising 106,000 polio workers, vaccinators and healthcare workers.
According to the Polio Emergency Operation Center (PEOC), a total of 62 polio cases surfaced from across the country in 2019. Out of those, 46 cases came from K-P and merged districts, five from Punjab, four from Balochistan and six from Sindh. The highest number of cases came from K-P’s Bannu district, where 22 children have reportedly fallen prey to the virus.
In this regard, the government has devised a chalked out new plan under which 100-line call centres would be set up around the country to address the parents’ complaints regarding vaccination and to get updates regarding polio cases.
Besides, the Permanent Mission of the UAE to the United Nations (UN) Office in Geneva hosted an invitation-only event centred on polio eradication at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva.
This event was a precursor to a pledging moment that will be hosted at the Reaching the Last Mile Forum in Abu Dhabi this November. The polio pledging moment supports the Polio Endgame Strategy 2019-2023 released by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) earlier this year, detailing the resources needed to reach eradication by 2023.
An exhibition focused on polio will be displayed at WHO headquarters in Geneva throughout the week including “Everyday Heroes”, a photo series by Pakistani photographer Mobeen Ansari, featuring profiles of many of the healthcare workers behind Pakistan’s polio program. Ansari’s project was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The exhibition also includes a short film and photos profiling the work of the Emirates Polio Program and the programme has delivered 417 million polio drops to children under five years old hitherto.
Ambassador Obaid Salem Al Zaabi, UAE Permanent Representative to the United Nations, UN, and Other International Organizations emphasized the leading role played by the UAE under the patronage of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and its partners in polio eradication and their commitment to innovation in health.
Al Zaabi also commended the work of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, and his team in developing the Polio Endgame Strategy 2019-2023 aimed at realizing a world free of all polioviruses on a permanent basis.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “This is a reminder that polio eradication is not a forgone conclusion the last mile is the hardest. This will take a determined and unrelenting effort from all of us. Global progress to end polio would not be possible without partners like the UAE.
Judith Diment, Chair of the Rotary International Polio Eradication Advocacy Task Force expressed her organisation’s commitment to contributing actively to the Reaching the Last, RLM, Forum in Abu Dhabi.
The UAE’s dedication to disease elimination builds on the foundations laid by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the United Arab Emirates. Since 2011, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has pledged more than US$ 167 million for polio eradication activities through the GPEI.