The considerable decrease in polio cases has started paying dividends, as the country has been chosen to host a prestigious regional conference of health ministers, to be held in October.

Sources said that the conference would be held in Pakistan, and health ministers from 22 countries in South Asia, the Middle East, West Asia and North Africa would participate.

They said that it was a great achievement, as there was a time when Pakistan was about to face a travel ban owing to the rising polio cases.

They said that the purpose of the conference is to discuss various chronic diseases, including polio, TB, malaria and AIDS, etc. and to hammer out strategies about how the region could be made safer.

According to the data shared by the ministry, Pakistan witnessed a drastic decrease in polio cases, which at one time rose to such an alarming situation that the world was planning to impose a travel ban on Pakistani citizens.

However, due to the Health Ministry’s concerted and coordinated efforts, coupled with the efforts made by the provincial governments, Pakistan brought the polio cases to just two cases in 2017.

According to year-wise breakup, a gradual decrease took place. In 2014, a total of 306 cases were reported across the country, 55 in 2015, while in 2016, the polio cases have been reduced to only 20.

However, in 2017, so far, only two cases have been reported, and the world greatly acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in eradicating polio from the country.

Talking to Pakistan Today, Ministry of National Health PRO Sajid Hussain Shah confirmed that the regional conference is going to be held in October, which was a great success for Pakistan.

He said that Pakistan’s progress towards zero polio was highly appreciated by international donors and development partners in the recently-held regular quarterly briefing to the donors’ community in Pakistan.

He said they vowed to stand with Pakistan to eradicate the deadly polio virus from Pakistan and the rest of the world.

After recording the lowest ever 20 polio cases in 2016, the programme has successfully maintained the momentum in 2017.

It was all possible because the prime minister had declared polio eradication as one of the key priorities, placing it as the priority agenda No. 1 of the health sector, which is intractably linked to Sustainable Development Goals and the National Health Vision 2025. At the provincial level, the task forces led by chief ministers and chief secretaries, with the support of respective Emergency Operations Centres are driving this sustained performance.

As many as 3,500 delegates from 194 countries participated at the World Health Assembly, deliberating diverse issues like accelerating the fight against the growing burden of non-communicable diseases across the world, strengthening preparedness for the cross-border spread of epidemics, access to universal health care, eradication of polio, strengthening routine immunisation among others.

Progress made by Pakistan in addressing key issues that impeded polio progress won high appreciation by experts. Pakistan also presided over side events on implementation of international health regulations, universal health coverage, diabetes, tuberculosis control, nutrition, eye health, and blood safety, where the country’s strategies and plans of action were appreciated by the participating countries.

Sajid said that even though Pakistan lost the elections for the post of World Health Organisation director general after a tough contest; however, it is a great honour for the country that it has been elected chair of the WHO Executive Board, and Pakistan’s Health Director General Dr Assad Hafeez formally assumed the office of chairman of the executive board.