LAHORE – Punjab Health Department Director General Nisar Cheema has warned that Pakistan may face travel sanctions after June if the polio virus circulation is not checked.

The warning came at a media workshop arranged by the Health Department at Royal Palm Golf and Country Club on Thursday. The participants included TheNation Editor Salim Bokhari, Lahore Press Club President Arshad Ansari and EPI Director Tanveer Ahmad.

The World Health Organization (WHO) was represented by Dr Amir and Dr Sarwat while Dr Tahir Manzoor, health and nutrition specialist, was present on behalf of the Unicef. Editors, reporters and desk incharges from major media organisations attended the workshop.

“We need media support in creating awareness that vaccinating children is our national responsibility”, the DG said in his remarks. He reminded the participants that in other countries like Egypt no door-to-door campaigns were held to eradicate polio. “Rather the parents are so aware of the hazards of the disease that they bring their children to the health centres,” he said. He clarified that hygiene conditions in the area were vital to saving a child from measles, polio and other such diseases. “The Mianwali girl who contracted polio virus was living in an Afghan refugee camp in deplorable conditions. The child was malnourished and did not have enough immunity despite several dozes of OPV”, the DG said.

Offering full cooperation to highlight health related issues including polio immunisation, TheNation Salim Bokhari said it was upto the government, Unicef and WHO to educate and train media personnel about issues and problems in executing campaigns. “Provide media personnel necessary training, material and experts so that they could take guidance from the content”, he said.

Bokhari offered to accommodate articles on health related issues on newspapers, saying he always encouraged publication of guest writers’s efforts. He said media organisations should give due coverage to health related issues to play their due role in public awareness.

“There needs to be a permanent space and time for health issues in the print as well electronic media so that proper coverage is given to immunisation as well as polio”, he concluded.

LPC President Arshad Ansari highlighted the role of Press Clubs in campaigns to eradicate measles as well as polio.

“Every cooperation would be extended to the government in creating awareness to dispel myths associated with polio and measles campaigns”, the LPC president said.

EPI Director Dr Tanveer highlighted risk factors including myths, beliefs and misconceptions related to polio and measles vaccines.

“Media should address such issues as there is nothing further from truth than linking polio and other such vaccines with family planning and impotency”, he said.