Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday laid out a plan to address the rising cases of poliovirus in the country, including bringing improvements at all levels of the program.
He said this in a telephonic conversation with Bill Gates, the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
In a readout of the call issued by the prime minister’s office on Friday, the two discussed the ongoing public health and social sector programs which are supported by BMGF in Pakistan.
With 14 cases of polio being reported in Pakistan so far this year, having spent a little over a year without reporting a single case, the country is at risk of seeing the virus resurging.
Expressing grave concern at the recent surge in polio cases, PM Shehbaz stressed that his government remains committed to ending all forms of the crippling virus in the country.
He added that all cases of poliovirus confirmed so far this year belonged to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Outlining his plan to tackle the resurgence of the virus, he said that his administration was actively implementing a special emergency response plan for the affected areas.
This plan included scaling up and improving the quality of the polio eradication program.
Shehbaz told Gates that his government was also focused on strengthening operations at all levels of the program and empowering districts to make decisions based on the specific needs of their areas.
With attacks launched on vaccinators and their security escorts, Shehbaz said that they were providing safety and security to all members of the polio program, especially the frontline workers, on priority.
Gates shared Shehbaz’s concerns and reiterated the BMGF’s continued support to Pakistan for ensuring that no child is at risk of paralysis due to the poliovirus.
Appreciating the support extended by the BMGF to Pakistan to eradicate polio and improve immunisation, nutrition and financial inclusion in the country, Shehbaz reaffirmed Pakistan’s desire to further strengthen its partnership with the foundation in all the ongoing areas of cooperation.
The two also exchanged views on BMGF’s support for various other government-led programs aimed at addressing malnutrition and stunting, essential immunisation services, micropayment gateway RAAST, and digitization of the National Savings Program.