Friday, November 13, 2015

Polio Eradication
What Pakistan can learn from India

Since my birth I am taught love for my country and hate for India. I grew up with mixed feelings of love and hate. Feelings of love kept growing while hatred diminished with age and maturity.

Logic has always guided my thoughts. I always move forward logically. Logic has always been the beacon of my thoughts. When it comes to defense we try to surpass India with all our energies. When India procured latest combat aircraft from Russia we got F-16s from United States. In 1998 when India conducted 5 nuclear tests we responded with 6. In cross-border firing incidents we have always responded fiercely. We taught good lesson to India in 1965 war but did not learn from our follies committed in 1971 debacle.  Pakistan is always proud to prove its superiority over India, but our pride was seriously dented on 24 July 2014 when WHO declared India a polio free country. So many Pakistanis like me kept on waiting that Nawaz Sharif may give reply to India by keeping our children safe from Polio like atomic blasts.

India receiving Polio Free Certificate
Pakistan’s resolve to outwit India in every field seems very fragile when it comes to eradicating polio.  We were quick to respond nuclear tests but failed in the health sector. I am anxiously waiting for the day when Prime Minister comes on state media and proudly announce eradication of polio from Pakistan.  Entire world thanked India for its success against polio while looking with suspicions towards Pakistan.  Several government officials including Prime Minister’s polio Cell former focal person Shehnaz Wazir Ali visited India to review the efforts made to eradicate polio. Pakistani delegation met with the Rotary and WHO officials. India showing magnanimity handed over the blue prints of Polio Elimination Strategy. During this time government changed, Aysha Raza Farooq replaced Shehnaz Wazir Ali but polio could not be eradicated.  Our enmity with India is like a pole star yet morality demands any good done by the enemy must be acknowledged.
I anxiously wanted to know the magic India used to eradicate polio. My wish was granted when Mr Fahd Husain selected me for a scholarship funded by a U.S. organization East West

Outside Lal Qila in Delhi Center.


In September when I arrived in Dheli and my keenness to meet Indian officials working for polio drive started growing impatiently. Ms Shalini the Communication Officer of Public Health Foundation India played a vital role to ensure my meeting with people at the helm of affairs. My first meeting was with Mr Deepak Kapur, chairman Rotary India. Mr Deepak was astonished to learn that Pakistanis were ignorant to the efforts made by Rotary for eradication of polio. In Pakistan people think Rotary belongs to the privileged class only.  I was surprised to learn that Rotary was contributing double the funds than International Gats Foundation. Mr. Deepak Kapur explained how the conscience of bureaucracy was shaken and efforts made to convince bureaucrats that polio was a deadly disease.

Their efforts forced Indian government to release funds and spare all resources for polio campaign. Religious clerics also requested to play their role to convince masses against polio and urge them to take Polio vaccine. Dr. Suneel Bahl briefed about role

With Dr Suneel Bahl and WHO staff in Delhi and efforts made by WHO in chalking out strategies and campaigns of immunizations and strict monitoring. They also spent force to identifying missing children in different areas of gypsies and construction sides. By adopting this approach vaccinators successfully covered missing child and so India thrown this disease out of their country.
On my return from India I met Rotary Pakistan Polio Plus’s chairman Mr Aziz Memon. The honorable chairman told me that there was no dearth of funds in Pakistan for Polio. He explained the reasons of Pakistan’s failure against polio; the reason is very simple-government’s priorities.  Pakistani government needs to turn

With Chairman Rotary Pakistan Aziz Memopolio campaign into a movement.

Should bureaucracy admit polio as a deadly disease nothing can stop Pakistan to eradicate polio.  WHO India’s focal person Dr Sunil Bhal also emphasized that polio campaign needs to be taken seriously and run like a movement. Administers of polio campaign and the recipients of polio drops will have to take this movement seriously. In India various incentives were tried to convince people for polio drops. Gifts for children like Balloons, chocolates and sweets were used as positive reinforcement. In 1988 more than 150,000 children were affected by polio in India. Yet India managed to eradicate polio. Dr Bhal says, “Health and sanitation conditions are far better in Pakistan than India, yet I fail to understand why Pakistan cannot deal with polio”.  Polio situation in 2014 was drastically alarming for Pakistan. 300 polio-affected

Ayesha Raza Farooq, Chairperson Polio Cell
children were reported. Pakistan had to face travel sanctions as well. In 2015 there was a sigh of relief. Polio cases are dropped by 70%. So far in 10 months only 40 cases have been reported.
Independent Monitoring Board for Polio acknowledges in its fresh report that Pakistan made considerable improvement.IMB declared the Peshawar valley and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) as a ‘conveyer belt’ of polio transmission and noted that this was possibly the last reservoir of wild poliovirus left in the world.
It is a daunting task but surely not impossible in any context. Government officials attend international conferences on polio, make tall claims but fail to deliver the goods.

Prime Minister’s polio cell will have to take the bull of polio by its horns to eradicate the deadly disease from the country and make Pakistan stand proudly beside the polio free nations. Folks look! India is Polio free and we are not……….
Posted by Jabbar Chaudhary at 3:09 PM


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