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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 447, 5 December 2022

UNICEF assures polio eradication by 2023



How the polio programme will curb the spread

Bhoomika Sesharaj

On 4 December, UNICEF’s Regional Director for South Asia George Laryea-Adjei said that the polio programme in the country is “back on track” and expressed the desire of eradicating the debilitating disease by the end of 2023. Adjei said that the current data presented that the virus was “under control” in Pakistan and that the agency is utilising all its resources and services to provide comprehensive protection against the disease to “every boy and girl.” He lauded the efforts of the health workers struggling to administer vaccines to every part of the country and said that the programme would stop poliovirus transmission in 2023 owing to these efforts. He contended that Pakistan was performing better this year to combat the spread of the virus than the previous year, but led that there were varied challenges that hampered the efforts to eliminate the disease completely. He expressed concern over the attacks on health workers in some parts of Pakistan and appreciated the government’s measures to condemn these attacks and their dedication to curbing the spread. He said that the country’s continuous “onslaught” of disasters had put millions of children’s lives at risk and that the recent floods had destroyed health and provision facilities in the country. 

Pakistan’s rise in polio cases and UNICEF’s continued aid
Pakistan’s resolve to become polio-free strains from the country reporting its first case in April to regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reporting 13 cases in July. The precedence of these cases comes from positive environmental samples being collected from the country’s sewage samples, and pose a looming health risk to its inhabitants, especially those living in vulnerable areas after the floods hit the country. 

Adjei said that the agency had been working with the government, UN agencies and international partners from the beginning of the flood’s aftermath and had responded to the needs of the most vulnerable population of the country. He said that 110 mobile health teams were lending critical health services to children, women, and adolescents and were also aiding UNICEF’s programmes to limit measles and rubella diseases through valid vaccination campaigns. 

He cited that the agency was additionally working on water, sanitation and hygiene in the flood-affected areas as well, with two million litres of safe drinking water being delivered to the areas. He said that the agency had acquired 16,000 warm clothing kits for children to areas of Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan, and said that the country was a “climate hotspot” and that the current emergency risked Pakistan at an “extremely high risk” and leaving behind catastrophic effects that could take years to recover from.  (“Polio will be eradicated from Pakistan by end of 2023: Unicef director,” Dawn, 4 December 2022)

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