Polio eradication a UN priority, says Guterres in Pakistan visit

UNICEF/Asad Zaidi A 13-day-old baby receives the polio vaccine in Gadab town, Karachi Sindh Province, Pakistan.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


In one of the last bastions of polio on the planet, millions of children are being given a fighting chance against the paralyzing and potentially fatal disease.

During his first official visit to Pakistan as UN Secretary-General, António Guterres stopped at a kindergarten in Lahore on Tuesday, as the country kicked off its initial nationwide polio campaign for the year.

While there is no cure for polio, vaccination can protect a child for life, and the campaign this month aims to reach more than 39 million children.

“Polio is one of the few diseases we can eradicate in the world in the next few years. This is a priority of the United Nations and I am extremely happy to see it is a clear priority for the Government of Pakistan,” said Mr. Guterres.

“My appeal to all leaders, religious leaders, community leaders, is to fully support the Government of Pakistan and other governments around the world to make sure that we will be able to fully eradicate polio.”

Misconceptions and mistrust

Along with Afghanistan, Pakistan is the only place in the world with wild poliovirus transmission, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Last year, the country saw a resurgence of polio, with 144 cases; up from 12 in 2018.  So far this year, there have been 17.

In Pakistan, nearly one-third of children aged 12 to 23 months miss out on basic vaccines, either because they live in hard-to-reach areas, or due to misconceptions about the importance of immunization.

Veteran vaccinator Farzana Shakeel has been pelted with stones, shouted at, and even threatened during anti-polio vaccination campaigns in Karachi.

“To this day, many people in my community think that vaccines are a conspiracy to prevent them from having more children, or to harm them in some way,” she said.

Going-door-to-door to save lives

While at the kindergarten, the UN chief vaccinated three children against polio.

He also met with frontline workers from the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme, a 265,000-strong force that goes door-to-door during vaccination campaigns to ensure as many children as possible are protected against the disease.

The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, which manages the procurement and distribution of over 1 billion doses of polio vaccines worldwide each year, supports the programme in Pakistan, including through leading in vaccine supply and strengthening partnerships with local communities to build trust in vaccines.

More than 60 per cent of the programme’s workers are women, and they are critical to rallying support from parents, caregivers and communities.

Vaccination points also are set up at railway stations, bus stops and other transit points nationwide, targeting children who are travelling or on the move, with some 1.7 million vaccinated in 2018.

Immunization activities and other measures are further coordinated with a similar programme in neighbouring Afghanistan, given the frequent population movements between the two countries.

Pakistan’s polio eradication programme currently is re-strategizing its operations and approach to better respond to increased transmission of the virus, according to the WHO Representative in the country.

Dr. Palitha Malipala said this includes incorporating high-level commitment to polio eradication across the political sector and ensuring that health workers are not targeted.

“We will continue to support the Government of Pakistan, who spearhead this initiative in country, to overcome the challenges of the last year and put in place robust measures to ensure a polio-free world for future generations,” he said.

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Comments

  1. samir sardana says:

    The Solution to the ills of Pakistan in COVID time = Exports

    The export strategy of Pakistan,should be based on export of water,labour,earth, defense and LDC benefits.Any other model will fail,as competitive nations,with deep pockets,will offer financial,fiscal and asset subsidies,to offset any advantage,that Pakistan,has w.r.t labour cost and geography (besides excellent logistics,and regulatory structures) dindooohindoo

    Setting up manufacturing capacities,to cater to the local Pakistani market and exporting the surplus,is not viable,as Pakistan does not have economies of scale (even to realise the geometric impact,of lower labour costs).Planning capacities on that model,leads to the DISASTER of the Indian NPAs,of 350-400 Billion USD,with exports dead,and the inability of Indians,to compete,with the PRC.

    Export of Water – is export of animal proteins,exotic fruits and vegetables and agri to the GCC,EU and other parts of the world.Water from the skies or the earth,by rarefaction or condensation or precipitation,in the form of hail,rain or snow,is purely a function of geography,in a time span of a few decades.Over a period of 3-4000 years,some disasters can occur,like the disappearance of Saraswati (in Pakistan) or the diversion of rivers etc.

    Thus,water captures the fertility and agro-ecoonomic opportunities and variety of Pakistani soil,and also,the geo-strategic location of Pakistan (w.r.t access to GCC,Ports,Cheapest Point of Purchase for UN/FAO/WHO procurements for Afghanistan etc.)

    In Pakistan,Water is a Perpetual Resource,UNLIKE in India.In addition,many nations in the EU allow a COO certificate linked to a Geography,in that exporting nation, to give ADDITIONAL DUTY/SUBSIDY AND QUOTA BENEFITS. These are agriculture and agri-derivatives,like wine.Pakistan is the prime candidate, for the same,for exotic fruits etc., which have valuable and critical,downstream applications,in the EU.

    Export of Earth – is export of minerals,which ALSO,includes industries like Cement (which is export of lime,limestone and coal).Once the Coal Fields of Pakistan,are tapped,then it would include sale of power,as the cheapest way to transport power,is at the speed of light,via a grid – especially,when the Grid is set up by other nations.

    Pakistani Mineral Resources are almost perpetual,and in areas with very low density of population and ample water.Thus the scope for TOLERATING pollution is higher – and so,like in Nuke Power – if some latitude is granted w.r.t pollution,wastes, effluents, safety and environment – mining costs can crash exponentially.For a Perpetual reserve,with an exchange rate of Rs 160/USD,it is akin to burying US Dollars, 1000 meters in the earth,and starving on top of the earth.For a nation,with finite reserves (in the short term),there is an opportunity cost,of exports – in terms of the fact that,in 2023 (say),prices of several ores might be 2-5 times,current rates – and so,they can raise USD,from bankers,liening the mining reserves.

    Export of Defense – In conjunction with the PRC and the PLA/PLN.PLAF,Pakistan can perfect the technique of customising and innovating Chinese Defense Technology,for their use,and exporting lower technologies or the excess capacities to Africa,Central Asia,LATAM,South America and the Middle East (excluding the quasi Nato nations).With Chines=se Financial Aid, extensive credits can be given.There are many nations in the world,which the PRC would NOT like to make defense exports to.

    Export of Labour – Pakistan needs to be practical,to use low cost manufacturing technologies,which are labour intensive and require moderate power consumption ,and some pollutive impact.Low Capital Costs,will lower the Operating and Financial Risk,and the skilled but CHEAPER labour cost,can be exported OUT.There would be several such technologies,several products and several markets.

    LDC – Lastly,Pakistan has to maximise the LDC benefits,using Chinese Capital and SEZs – with an appropriate mix of Chinese Labour and Domestic Input Costs,in the SEZ units, so that the COO is Pakistan,and the LDC benefits are availed of.

    SEZs – The SEZ policy of Pakistan has to be synthesised with the LDC gains,to ensure that the costs to the SEZ,are the lowest among all LDCs in the world.However,the Costs are not to be evaluated,as the Nominal Costs.So the land lease and other charges,payable by the SEZ to the Pakistani State, might not be the lowest – but on a NET differential Mode,w.r.t the Reduction in Logistics costs,to the Pakistani SEZ,it should be the LOWEST in the world. Once that is done,then as a thumb rule, to keep the laws simple, FREE EXIM needs to allowed and all Inputs (including Power etc.) should be sourcable,w/o caveats.So a SEZ should be able to set up a IPP/CPP/RPP, anywhere in Pakistan,with any fuel,with nil duty and taxes and the lowest wheeling and banking charges.

    Corporate Tax holidays should start AT THE CHOICE of the Investor,FROM THE YEAR after which the Brought forward losses,of the SEZ are exhausted.And the Tax holiday should be co-terminus,with that of the longest holiday,by any LDC.The period of limitation,for the Choice of initiating the holiday period,should be upto 5 years,from commercial operations.

    Basically,even if Pakistan waives the Wheeling charges etc.,it does not matter,as the aim is to bring in the ANCHOR and other Investors in the SEZ.Thereafter,the principles of Self Preservation by the SEZs,and its units,will ensure that,the State will find ingenious ways to earn revenue – provided that,1st the ANCHOR comes in,and then, that the SEZ and the SEZ units,make money !

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