Islamabad - Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication, Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq has said protection from polio is the right of every Pakistani child and the government is making all-out efforts to ensure that every child in the length and breadth of Pakistan is reached with anti-polio vaccine.

“We recognize that the role of the communities, parents, civil society is of critical importance in ensuring that children get their right to protection from disease and disability caused by preventable diseases including polio,” she said this in a statement in connection with the World Polio Day.

The government’s resolve in fighting polio is reflective in the major turnaround achieved, as this year evidenced in sharp reduction of 85 percent in polio cases and significant drop in positive environmental samples collected from across the country. The present government faced with a raging epidemic of polio, took the challenge head on and with a well thought out strategy and high quality implementation under the leadership of the prime minister, has been able to not only contain the spread of the virus but has put the program on the road to completely stopping polio virus transmission in the country.

National and provincial emergency operation centres established across the country to better monitor and oversee the polio effort, zero tolerance for inefficiency and improved governance have been the cornerstone of the government’s strategy.

The security situation was the most challenging in polio eradication efforts. The government’s unwavering resolve against terrorism and decisive action in the troubled areas have had a salutary effect on polio eradication. It is most unfortunate that children had to suffer affliction of an irreversible ailment in this senseless spate of violence. A reign of fear prevented both health workers and families from reaching out to each other.  With the success of military operation Zarb-e-Azb and support provided by the armed forces in implementation of the campaign, that challenge is being effectively addressed.

“We have converted adversity into opportunity and changed the course of events reaching eligible children in all agencies of FATA and across the country,” she said. The UAE Pakistan Army collaborative effort in FATA and adjoining areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been most effective. As part of special strategies to exploit every opportunity of immunizing children against Polio and other diseases, all children of the temporarily displaced populations returning to their homes were also vaccinated.

A major breakthrough has been the overwhelming support of the religious clergy representing all schools of thought. They have rallied behind the cause calling upon the faithful to fulfil their obligation towards their children as enshrined in The Holy Quran. As a result of locally appropriate and innovative communication and advocacy strategy, refusal to polio vaccination has seen a sharp decline and today stand at all time low.

Pakistan program’s single most important breakthrough is access into hitherto inaccessible areas and making insecure areas safe for vaccination operations. Out of the box strategies like community protected vaccination in security compromised areas have been scaled up with door-to-door vaccination campaigns in most difficult to reach areas in Balochistan, FATA, KP and Karachi. With the support of the armed forces, access to children was achieved in most insecure areas of FATA.

On the occasion of World Polio Day, I would like to pay tributes to the public health managers, the vaccine experts, logisticians and epidemiologists who plan for vaccination, who make sure our vaccine is of the best quality. Who search out communities and children to ensure we deliver this life-saving service to them. A special tribute to parents, who overwhelmingly demand the service of vaccination, to all political parties, who have come together over this common goal of protecting the future of Pakistan and done their utmost to ensure children receive vaccination in their constituencies. But most of all, gratitude is due to the hundreds of women and men who go door to door to protect the children of Pakistan. They brave rough terrain, inclement weather and long arduous days of work to ensure our children are protected from Polio. We need to salute their spirit of service and support them wherever we are and in whatever manner we can.

“We have come this far due to the support of the people who are determined to protect their children from this debilitating disease and are confident that the Program will grow stronger in the days to come protecting more children and defeating polio,” she concluded.