Polio campaign to continue under National Action Plan; NA told

ISLAMABAD: National Assembly was informed Wednesday that polio eradication program in the country will continue under National Action Plan to eradicate polio.

Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Saira Afzal Tarar informed the House in response to a calling attention notice that meeting of the Steering Committee on Wednesday rejected the demand of International Monitoring Board to engage NDMA to eradicate polio.

All stakeholders agreed that NDMA does not have capacity to execute this program. Therefore, it should continue under National Action Plan. It would also be conveyed to IMB, the minister said in response to questions of MNAs Dr Azra fazl Pechuho, Shazia Mari, Shagufta Jamani, Nafisa Shah and Dr Fehmida Mirza.

She further stated that if this program is given to NDMA, even it will also execute through the same team of LHWs and Vaccinators through whom it is being presently run.

The members had expressed concern on rising number of polio cases across the country and inquired from the minister about campaign as well as other measures to get rid of this menace, she added.

The minister explained that primarily it is responsibility of provinces to execute this campaign while the federal government is having an overview coordinating this campaign.

She dispelled the impression that the present government was responsible for failure of this program and said, when this program was started the ministry was being devolved and in some areas of KPK the access was not possible. These cases are from the areas where the polio teams could not reach during 2012. Today those children are between ages of two to three years and most of cases are surfacing among them and from those areas.

She informed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after assuming charge put polio on priority and is taking personal interest for success of the program. He has also constituted a Cabinet Committee comprising Defence, Interior and health Services Ministry to address reach out and security issues.

She said even the operation in FATA is also a manifestation of the government’s seriousness to this problem. The way the program was running, it could not be successful because it had become more a security issue than the health issue.

The minister said, the resources are with the provinces and they and the WHO are responsible for payment of salaries to the polio workers as she also dispelled the impression of non-availability of polio vaccine. There is no issue of availability of vaccine and delay in PC-1 also did not affect the campaign.

Answering the questions, she further explained that the present cases of polio are surfacing from those areas where the access was not possible during 2012. The government is taking responsibility of the situation. We are not shirking but the reality is that these cases are of 2012.

Saira Afzal Tarar said even today there are areas which are not accessible but it does not mean that we should not effort. It is a national issue and let us deal it as a nation instead of putting onus on one another.

We are committed to polio eradication and the government along with all stakeholders is buttressing efforts to curb this menace, she added.