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President Zardari says polio eradication remains a high national priority

Islamabad, June 11, 2013 (PPI-OT): President Asif Ali Zardari has said that polio eradication remains a high national priority and efforts in this regard which have been institutionalized at policy and field level would continue unabated as there was a complete ownership of the program by all the political parties as well as from the civil society. He said that sustained efforts would continue to ensure timely polio vaccination drives as envisioned under the National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) 2013.

This he said during his meeting with Dr. Waqar Ajmal, Representative of the Bill Gates and Melinda Gates Foundation, here at Aiwan-e-Sadr today.

Ambassador for Polio eradication Ms. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho, Begum Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar, Secretary to President Ms. Nasreen Haque and other senior officials were also present during the meeting.

Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar while briefing said that during the meeting President appreciated the assistance of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the country for fulfilling the mission launched by Shaheed Mohtarma Benzir Bhutto by vaccinating her own child in 1994.

The President said that we greatly value the support provided by the Foundation and the way Mr. Bill Gates has maintained continuous communication reiterating his continued commitment with the country towards this cause.

The President said that despite challenges of inaccessibility in certain areas and attacks on Polio missionaries by the militant mindset, anti-polio drive continues across the country in 2013. He said that there have been some isolated incidents of attacks on polio workers and their security guards, however these unfortunate incidents have further strengthened our resolve and commitment to eradicate this crippling disease from our soil.

The President said that such heinous acts of attacking those who were trying the save the future of our children have been strongly condemned by all sections of society and the whole nation stands united for this cause. He said that the Government was ensuring the security of the polio workers who are visiting door-to-door to ensure full coverage of the polio program.

The President noted with satisfaction that as a result of continued efforts by the Government duly supported by all segments of society, the number of polio cases dropped to only 58 in 2012 as compared to 198 in 2011.

This year till June 2013 the reported number of the cases have remain 14 which was a significant progress, observed the President. He said that polio-virus has been restricted to four reservoirs which included Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, FATA, Quetta block and Gadap and Baldia Town in Karachi. The rest of the country is poliovirus free, the President continued.

He said that Ambassador for Polio eradication Ms. Aseefa was taking a lead role in providing assistance to initiatives aimed at eradicating polio and mobilizing masses’ support towards this cause.

Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said that a few days back Rotary Foundation had also acknowledged the efforts of Ms. Aseefa Bhutto towards polio eradication by decorating her on behalf of 1.2 million Rotarians from 200 countries.

In his message to Ambassador for Polio eradication, Chairman Rotary Foundation Wilfrid J. Wilkinson said that “We rely on your continued support to ensure that polio eradication remains top-of-mind for world leaders, key community stakeholders and the general public”, said that Spokesperson.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the President while highlighting salient features of NEAP 2013 also appreciated Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring Cell and Chief Minister’s Task Forces that he said have made a major difference in keeping a close eye on planning and implementation of the NEAP with timely corrective measures and necessary interventions where deemed appropriate.

The President also highlighted the role being played by the parliamentarians and the Ulemas who have issued fatwa (religious decree) in favour of polio eradication initiative. He said that innovative strategies such as short Interval Additional Dose Strategy, Immunization Plus in FATA and transit strategy to cover children moving in and out of FATA were being pursued for effective implementation of the Program. He said that a system of zero-tolerance has been instituted to overcome the issues of negligence and inefficiencies.

Dr. Waqar Ajmal 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.

For more information, contact:
Haji Ahmed Malik
Principal Information Officer
Press Information Department (PID)
Tel: +9251 925 2323 and +9251 925 2324
Fax: +9251 925 2325 and +9251 925 2326

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