ISLAMABAD - President Mamnoon Hussain has said that polio eradication remains a high national priority and vigorous steps and initiatives would continue unabated till the complete eradication of the crippling disease from the country.

He said this in a meeting with President Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Dr Chris Elias on Friday. He said various mechanisms and innovative strategies like Prime Minister's Polio Monitoring Cell‚ National Task Force on Polio Eradication and National Emergency Action Plan have made marked progress in the fight against polio.

The President appreciated the assistance of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the country in the battle against polio virus and said that Pakistan greatly value the support provided by the Foundation and the way Bill Gates has maintained continuous communication reiterating his continued commitment with Pakistan towards this cause.

The President said that despite challenges of inaccessibility in certain areas particularly FATA and some isolated incidents of attacks on polio workers, the government was committed and undertaking all possible steps including innovative immunisation strategies to reach out and vaccinate each and every child under the age of five years in all parts of the country especially FATA.

He said that a system of zero-tolerance has already been instituted to overcome the issues of negligence and inefficiencies in this regard.

The President on the occasion said that government plans to engage religious scholars and imams of mosques particularly in FATA to dispel misconceptions regarding polio campaigns and said that they can play important role in the ongoing fight against polio and making the polio eradication initiative a success in the area. Government was also taking measures for the security and protection of polio workers in this area, the President added.

Dr Chris Elias, President Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation thanked the President for meeting and appreciated the efforts being made by the government, taking along all the segments of society, for eradication of polio from the country. He assured continued support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in government's efforts for making Pakistan a polio free country.

Those preset during the meeting included among others Saira Afzal Tarar, Minister of States for National Health Services Regulations Coordination, Ayesha Raza Farooq, PM's Focal Person on Polio Eradication, Imtiaz Inayat Elahi, Secretary National Health Services Regulations Coordination, Sardar Muhammad Abbas, Secretary social sector, FATA, Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar, National Coordinator, PM's Polio Monitoring cell and other senior officials of relevant organisations.

Nadeem Hassan Asif, Secretary to the President and Saba Mohsin Raza, Press Secretary to the President were also present during the meeting.