ISLAMABAD - A core group of national task force on polio eradication briefed the prime minister at the PM House on Tuesday about the challenges obstructing polio eradication efforts.

The group headed by Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Saira Afzal Tarar, also presented national action plan 2014 to the PM for endorsement.

According to information, the briefing was held before the arrival of World Health organization Director General, Dr Margrate Chan, who is visiting Pakistan Wednesday (today) to discuss the issues of drought in district Tharparkar and eradication efforts of polio as Pakistan may face travel restrictions if it continues to be a hub of virus transmission.

The PM was informed that Pakistan reported the highest number of polio cases last year and 27 cases have been surfaced this year so far. Out of these 27 cases, 21 were reported from North Waziristan Agency (NWA), and one each from South Waziristan Agency (SWA), Khyber Agency and FR Bannu, while three from different areas of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The PM expressed his deep concern over the incidence of polio cases in Fata and KP. "As regards to the Fata situation, I am aware that a special civil-military coordination mechanism is in place. However, we need to ensure that challenges in North and South Waziristan, where certain groups have banned anti-polio campaigns, are met with locally appropriate solutions and in accordance with local traditions and norms. We need to find solutions in cooperation with the security forces, tribal elders and local influential people to allow vaccination in the interest of their own children," he stated.

The PM said that it was a matter of grave concern that there was a possibility of travel restrictions being imposed on Pakistanis since virus from Pakistan has been found linked to polio cases in other countries.

“Since it is a question of honor, image and prestige of our country, we must redouble our efforts to eradicate polio from our country,” the PM held. He directed to strictly implement the Polio Eradication Action Plan with zero tolerance for inefficiency, negligence and under performance in the anti-polio campaigns.

On attacks on polio workers and police officials, Nawaz Sharif urged the provincial governments to take every possible step to provide security cover to those performing this important task. He said that he would ask all the chief ministers to personally monitor the polio campaign in their areas and provide ample protection to the polio workers.

“It is clear that opposition to polio vaccination by some elements is politically motivated and there is no religious dimension to it,” the PM said.

Ayesha Raza Farooq, Prime Minister's Focal Person on Polio Eradication, who gave presentation on the issue during the meeting later talking to The Nation said the biggest challenge hindering the eradication activities is security situation and there is a an outbreak like situation in NWA as children in areas of Fata have remained inaccessible for the past two years due to imposed ban and 80 to 90 percent cases are being reported from North and South Waziristan and Khyber Agency. Besides, there is a need to improve the quality of immunization campaigns in rest of the country, she added.

“The government is trying to get negotiated access to the restricted areas to start immunization campaigns. And it's been proposed in the national action plan to immunize IDPs coming from North Waziristan due to airstrikes and other areas due to law and order situation on check posts”, she concluded.

Dr Altaf Bosan, PM's Polio Monitoring and Coordination Cell, Additional Chief Secretary of Fata and other members had also attended the meeting.