Effective measures likely to eradicate polio from Pakistan by 2023: UNICEF

ISLAMABAD: A senior UNICEF official said the polio program in Pakistan was back on track and hoped that the crippling disease will be eradicated from the country by end of 2023 following effective measures to check its spread.

Regional Director for South Asia George Laryea-Adjei in an exclusive interview with APP, said the current data suggested that virus was now under control in the country.
“We are using all available resources and services at our disposal to reach every girl and boy in Pakistan with lifesaving vaccines and protect them against the entirely preventable disease,” he said.

Appreciating efforts of over 350,000 health workers traveling to all parts of the country to administer doses of the vaccine to every child, he said, “the program is back on track to stop all wild polio virus transmission in 2023,”.
George Laryea-Adjei said Pakistan was in a much better position today to eradicate polio than a year ago. However, there were challenges that hampered the efforts to eliminate the virus completely.

He expressed concern over the attack on polio and health workers in some parts of Pakistan and lauded the courage of polio teams.

He also appreciated efforts of polio eradication endeavors of the government recalling that Pakistan was the first country to launch an ambitious program for training its health workers to support national immunization programmes.

Highlighting the challenges , he said that the onslaught of back-to-back disasters – drought, heatwaves, floods and acts of violence continued to put millions of children’s lives at risk in Pakistan.

He said the recent catastrophic floods destroyed vital health facilities and exacerbated health risks for millions of children, especially those living in districts historically at the highest risk for polio.

The UNICEF, Regional Director said, UNICEF had been working with the government, UN agencies and NGO partners from day one of the flood to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable children and families, in 54 of the 90 calamity hit districts.

In the health sector, he said 110 mobile health teams were providing critical health services to children, women, and adolescents and UNICEF was also assisting the national measles and rubella vaccination campaigns for children under the age of five in flood affected districts.

Moreover, UNICEF was working for water, sanitation and hygiene in the flood-affected areas as well.

“We are delivering over two million litres of safe drinking water to the flood-affected communities,” he said.

The UNICEF also built toilets and distributed hygiene and menstrual hygiene management kits, besides installing new taps and repairing critical water networks destroyed by the floods.

UNICEF established over 600 temporary learning centres to provide safe spaces for children to learn and play in the education centres, he said while highlighting his organization’s endeavours.

Divulging details of the activities of UNICEF in northern Pakistan at the outset of winters, he said UNICEF procured 16,000 warm clothing kits for children up to 12 years of age which were being dispatched for distribution in snowbound areas of Balochistan, KP provinces and Gilgit Baltistan region.
Moreover, around 15,000 blankets have been distributed in KP and Balochistan provinces, he added.

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