Pakistan celebrates World Polio Day
Pakistan sees fewer cases but focussed attention needed to reach every child
ISLAMABAD, October 24 2012 - Pakistan joins the rest of the globe to celebrate World Polio Day today and with nearly 70% fewer cases over 2011, there is hope that the country will soon be declared polio free. However, reaching every child, especially the thousands of missed children across the country, will require the continuous commitment of Government, international partners and the people of Pakistan.
World Polio Day was created to remember the man who led the development of a vaccine against polio, Dr Jonas Salk. With the development of this vaccine, and its successor the oral polio vaccine, the complete eradication of polio from the planet was possible for the first time in history.
Sixty years later, Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic and globally the number of cases has never been lower. As of today, the situation in Pakistan is improving with 47 children paralyzed by polio in 27 districts compared with 154 cases in 48 districts in 2011.
Despite this, there is still considerable work needed to reach Pakistan’s consistently missed children. Pakistan witnessed similar success in 2005 when the number of polio cases had been reduced to 28. By 2006 cases were back up to 39 and by 2011 had reached 198 cases.
“We are close, but we cannot rest until every child is reached multiple times with the vaccine,” said the Prime Minister’s Focal Point for Polio, Shahnaz Wazir Ali. “And on World Polio Day, we cannot forget the hundreds of children paralysed by polio and the monumental impact this has for their families.” She added that the commitment of the Government to the cause is stronger than ever before. The President, Prime Minister and all Chief Ministers are monitoring the campaign and providing oversight and guidance.
Shahnaz appreciated the efforts of the over 100,000 frontline polio workers, including volunteers, Lady Health Workers, social mobilizers and health workers who go door-to-door during every campaign across the country to educate, vaccinate and reach every child. In many cases, teams face intimidation, misinformation and as with recent cases in Gaddap and Quetta, deadly violence.
World Polio Day provides an opportunity for the global community to renew the promise of a polio free world. With 99 % of the work done, it is more important than ever that we remain committed to the disease's eradication.
The last 1% of the task is proving to be the most challenging. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only three countries in the world where polio virus is endemic but polio is still a global threat to public health as the virus can re-enter and quickly spread in countries where it has been eradicated.
A number of events are being held across the country to mark the day, including:
· Lahore: World Polio Day Concert featuring Hadiqa Kiayani and Noori Group to honour the efforts of frontline polio workers, follow activities on #polioreporting and @endofpolio;