Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that Pakistan was one of the two polio-endemic countries in the world along with Afghanistan but the country has so far in 2021 reported a single polio case from Balochistan, while no case has been reported in Sindh this year compared to 22 cases in 2020.
He said this on Monday while talking to the media just after inaugurating a seven-day province-wide anti-polio campaign at the Government Dispensary, Sultanabad. Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho and Health Secretary Kazim Jatoi were also present on the occasion.
Shah said the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for polio had launched a province-wide anti-polio campaign on Monday, June 7, and it would last till June 13, as part of the sub-national immunisation days, to administer oral polio drops to over 9 million children of up to 5-years across the province. “This campaign will be conducted in all the 30 districts of Sindh,” he said and added that of the over-nine-million children, more than two million belonged to Karachi.
“The campaign will be conducted whilst following the strict WHO-recommended Covid-prevention protocols which include the wearing of masks by workers, their temperatures being checked before deployment, not handling children directly, not entering houses, spending limited time with families, and knocking on doors with pens, rulers or elbows rather than hands,” the CM explained. He added that as a result of the pandemic, the gap in campaigns from March till July 2020 along with the routine immunisation being affected had left an immunity gap in children which the government had been addressing through back-to-back monthly polio campaigns since August 2020.
He stated that due to such quality campaigns conducted by district teams, Sindh had not reported a single case of polio since July 2020 and environment samples now were also showing a negative trend.
“If we continue with the same momentum, we will further see significant results, but we must not get complacent, and continue the hard work,” the CM remarked. He said the Sindh government understood that communities in the high-risk union councils (UCs) for polio needed other basic services. “We are addressing this through new initiatives – we have opened dispensaries, EPI centres, and mother and child health facilities and accomplished installation of water filter plants among other initiatives in eight super high-risk UCs of Karachi and during the polio campaign we will have health camps across all eight super high-risk UCs to cater to the healthcare needs of communities, especially women and children,” he stated.
The CM was of the view that as the nation continued to deal with the pandemic, it must also continue with childhood immunisation to prevent childhood diseases. “The benefits of vaccination are clear as frequent campaigns have significantly reduced the burden of polio across the country,” he said.
Shah said that children could be saved from childhood diseases like polio through vaccination. He sought support of the media to raise awareness regarding this. “Efforts in the programme have resulted in around 50 per cent reduction in refusals and missed children but we must bring them down further, especially in Karachi,” he added.
The Pakistan Paediatric Association, Pakistan Islamic Medical Association, medical experts across the world, as well as prominent religious scholars in Pakistan and across the region have endorsed the oral polio vaccine as the safest and most effective method for not only preventing polio but also eradicating it from the environment.
The CM said the polio vaccine was the safest and most effective way to save the children from polio. He remarked that polio had no cure but it could be easily prevented through vaccination, for which the government was sending workers to people’s doorsteps. He appealed to the people to cooperate with the anti-polio teams. The CM also administered polio drops to children on the occasion and gave them gift packs.
Taking serious notice of the train accident at Gunya Mor near Reti Station, District Ghotki, the CM directed the Sukkur commissioner to mobilise the district administration and police to carry out relief works at the spot.
Shah directed the commissioner to arrange heavy machinery to evacuate the stuck passengers in the damaged bogies. “Priority should be to save the lives,” he said as he directed the commissioner to declare an emergency in all the nearby hospitals.
He also directed the commissioner to arrange temporary accommodation and food for the passengers till the train was cleared. “Necessary arrangements for shifting of bodies to their homes should also be made,” he said. The CM expressed grief at the loss of lives in the train accident.