Aim to Completely Eradicate Polio by Next Year: Pakistan

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Aim to Completely Eradicate Polio by Next Year: Pakistan

Representational Image (Agence France-Presse)

Islamabad:  Pakistan is preparing a comprehensive national immunisation plan to make the country polio-free by the next year as the government's access to Taliban-controlled areas, where it faced resistance in the drive, has increased after intensive military operation.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has set up a National Routine Immunisation Committee of the federal cabinet to prepare a strategy to permanently eradicate polio from the country by 2016, Minister of State for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar said yesterday.

The three-member committee includes the health minister and the defence minister, the Dawn reported.

Ms Tarar said that areas where the government lacked access, including Waziristan and some other parts of the tribal regions, have become hubs of polio virus but the National Routine Immunisation Plan is being prepared to permanently eradicate the disease.

She said the government's access to formerly Taliban-controlled areas has increased after military operation in tribal regions.

Militant groups often attack polio teams as they see vaccination campaigns a cover for espionage. There are also long running rumours about polio drops causing infertility.

"Tirah valley in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is the largest area where the virus exists, while in the past it had also been reported in Waziristan and other areas where the government had no access because of anti-peace elements," she told media in Quetta.

She said despite the fact that anti-polio campaigns faced problems in areas where the law and order situation had worsened, a nationwide drive would be launched soon.

Expressing concern that of the 12 high-risk districts for polio in the country, four are from Balochistan, she said the government would support the provincial authorities in their efforts to eradicate the crippling disease.

She said the Prime Minister is paying special attention to solving the problems of Balochistan in order to remove the sense of deprivation among the people of the province.

"We are also going to launch the Prime Minister's Health Insurance Programme in Quetta, Pishin, Kachhi and Loralai districts," she said.

Pakistan is one of only three countries along with Afghanistan and Nigeria where the polio virus is still endemic.

So far 28 polio cases were recorded in the country this year while 306 infections were reported in 2014.

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