ISLAMABAD: President Mamnoon Hussain Friday said that polio eradication was a high national priority and vigorous steps and initiatives were being taken at all levels and would continue till complete eradication of the disease from the country.
He said that various institutional mechanisms and innovative strategies including Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring Cell, National Task Force on Polio Eradication and National Emergency Action Plan have achieved progress in fighting against polio and making Pakistan a polio free country.
The President said this in a meeting with Dr. Chris Elias, President Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who called on him at the Aiwan-e-Sadr.
Saira Afzal Tarar, Minister of States for National Health Services Regulations Coordination, Ayesha Raza Farooq, PM’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication, Imtiaz Inayat Elahi, Secretary, National Health Services Regulations Coordination, Sardar Muhammad Abbas, Secretary Social Sector, FATA, Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, National Coordinator, PM’s Polio Monitoring Cell, Nadeem Hassan Asif, Secretary to the President and Saba Mohsin Raza, Press Secretary to the President and other senior officials of relevant organizations were also present in the meeting.
The President appreciated the assistance of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the country in battle against polio virus and said that Pakistan greatly valued the support provided by the Foundation and the way Bill Gates has maintained continuous communication reiterating his continued commitment towards this cause.
The President said that despite challenges of inaccessibility in certain areas particularly FATA and some isolated incidents of attacks on polio workers, the government was committed and undertaking all possible steps including innovative immunization strategies to reach out and vaccinate each and every child under the age of 5 years in all parts of the country especially FATA.
He said that a system of zero-tolerance has already been instituted to overcome the issues of negligence and inefficiencies in this regard.
Mamnoon Hussain said that the government has planned to engage religious scholars and prayer leaders of mosques particularly in FATA to dispel misconceptions regarding polio campaigns.
He said these people could play important role in the ongoing fight against polio and making the polio eradication initiative a success in the area.
The government was also taking measures for the security and protection of polio workers in this area, the President added.
Dr. Chris Elias, President Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 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.
He assured continued support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in government’s efforts for making Pakistan a polio free country.