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Crippling disease: Joint efforts needed to end polio




There has been a nearly 80 per cent decrease in the polio virus load, and Pakistan’s efforts are being appreciated globally, according to the government’s top polio eradication officer.

The Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq said this on Tuesday while chairing the 6th meeting of National Islamic Advisory Group (NIAG) at International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI)’s Dawah Academy.

Farooq said although there has been significant progress towards the eradication of the disease, there is a need for collaborative efforts to get rid of polio.

Efforts for polio eradication, streamlining religious scholars for a ‘polio-free Pakistan’ and decisions and implementations of previous meetings were reviewed by NIAG members in the meeting.

The day-long sessions were also chaired by Jamia Darul Uloom Nowshera head Maulana Samiul Haq and IIUI President and NIAG Chairman Dr Ahmed Yousif Al-Draiweesh.

Farooq said in 2014 Pakistan faced a polio outbreak the in security compromised areas [of North Waziristan] but this year, the government was successful in tackling the situation with balanced efforts, well-designed strategies, and the role of ulema and other key stakeholders.

The focal person apprised that NIAG, with the support of provincial scholar task forces, now has a religious advocacy plan till December 2015, which was focusing on the highest risk districts and union councils.

Al-Draiweesh said ulema were playing pivotal role in polio eradication, while a focus on removing misconceptions against the vaccine was needed. The university president lauded efforts of government and appreciated the decrease in number of polio cases. He suggested that educational institutes should be involved in arranging awareness campaigns and polio eradication policies, while adding that conferences on the issue would be helpful.

World Health Organization team leader Dr Zubair Mufti, in a presentation, said there were 306 polio cases in 2011 in the country, whereas only 38 cases were reported this year. He added that the number of vaccine deprived children has decreased to 16,000 from 0.5 million. “Momentum has to be maintained,” he urged.

Wafaqul Madaris General Secretary Qari Hanif Jalindhri, while discussing the previous decisions, said the provincial task force for polio eradication has come up with positive results and contributions of scholars must be lauded.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2015.

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