Islamabad, October 15, 2012 (PPI-OT): Reiterating Government’s commitment to banish polio from Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari has called for the need to produce polio vaccines within the country. He said that Pakistan and China have signed an MOU on cooperation in manufacture of vaccines and expressed the hope that the cooperation will also be extended to manufacture of polio vaccines in Pakistan for nation wide anti polio programs.
Kicking off 3-day national anti-polio campaign here at Aiwan-e-Sadr today, the President said that the Government was mindful of the challenges polio campaign has been facing. But, he said, no challenge was too big to stop us from saving our children from polio. He said that we cannot be the last country to eradicate polio.
The President, addressing the gathering after launching the campaign, said that some extremists have opposed polio eradication plans. But in the Pakistan of the Quaid-i-Azam and Quaid-i-Awam we cannot allow extremists to stop us from carrying forward the welfare agenda. With democracy taking roots, these forces are bound to fail, the President said.
He said that the Government was aware of the recent challenges in North and South Waziristan where certain groups imposed a ban polio campaigns. He said that we were meeting the challenge with locally appropriate solutions and in accordance with local traditions and norms.
The President said that the Government was also mindful of the recent incidents of violence that took place in Karachi including attacks on World Health Organization workers. He said that we cannot allow anyone to target those working to protect the health of our children. He said that the Sindh Government has been directed to take stern action against these elements and provide security to the international health teams.
According to prepared text of his speech, the President said that diseases know no borders and mankind has a collective responsibility towards children of the world. Together, he continued, we must strive to ensure that tomorrow’s world is free of this scourge. The President said that protecting the health and wellbeing of children was the collective responsibility of all.
He said that Polio was a crippling disease which continues to threaten opportunities for our children. Unfortunately, the President continued, Pakistan was among few countries which was still not completely polio free.
He said that Polio Eradication Initiative was, first launched by the government of ‘my leader Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.’ ‘Indeed the Lady Health Workers Programme and Polio Eradication Initiative were both launched by her Government,’ the President remarked. He said that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was the first Prime Minister to have personally administered polio drops, to a Pakistani child and that child was no less than our daughter Aseefa Bhutto Zardari who has now been nominated by the UNICEF as the Ambassador for Polio Eradication.
Pakistan has come a long way from 1994, when the polio eradication campaign was first launched formally, the President observed. He said that the polio cases have come down significantly; however, we are not yet completely polio free. The President said that our aim is to make Pakistan completely polio free. “We aim that no child lives in the fear of being crippled for life”, he continued.
While recounting the progress made against the crippling disease, the President said that the Government took serious notice of increase in polio cases towards the end of 2010 and declared polio emergency.
He said that a National Emergency Action Plan was developed in consultation with all Provincial Governments and with the support of international partners. The plan, he said, introduced innovative strategies to stem the rise in polio cases. The President said that the National Emergency Action plan, which was launched in January last year, has the backing of all provincial governments and AJK.
He said that NEAP focuses greater ownership, oversight and accountability at the Federal, Provincial, District and UC levels. Special measures have been devised to ensure access to the security compromised areas. Under the plan, he continued, district administration was given leadership role and responsibility for polio eradication.
The President said that he was pleased to note that the Chief Ministers were keeping an eye on the campaign. They have set up Special Monitoring Cells in their offices and inaugurating every campaign, he continued.
The President emphasized that we need to continue with the same zeal and spirit. He said that the Provinces have instituted a system of zero tolerance for inefficacy and negligence. As a result the quality of the anti polio campaign is improving with every campaign.
He said that we are reaching out to more and more children. Previously, the President noted, 42 percent districts reported 95 percent coverage. Now 80 percent districts are reporting 95 percent coverage. It is a marked improvement, the President expressed satisfaction. He said that a special civil-military co-ordination committee has been formed in all seven agencies of FATA.
The President said that our members of the Parliament were also effectively engaged to improve the polio eradication activities in their respective constituencies.
Appreciating the positive role played by sectors outside the health, international partners and NGOs in the Polio eradication campaign, the President said that we need this spirit of partnership in the country at this critical time. He said that let us pledge that no child who should get polio drops will be missed out.
The President also said that we are aware of the concerns of international community towards polio situation in Pakistan. He said that during his recent visit to New York he held meetings with various international stockholders to assure them that the Government was addressing the issues.
While reiterating Government’s commitment to provide all support in Polio eradication, the President urged all to make every effort and use all resources to ensure that every child is reached during the campaign and every subsequent campaign. He expressed the hope the objectives of the three-day national anti-polio campaign will be accomplished with the cooperation of all concerned.
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