ISLAMABAD - To start immunisation campaigns in Waziristan and lift a ban imposed on anti-polio drives by Taliban, the matter should be included in agenda of talks between the government and Taliban.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan proposed this on Wednesday while talking to media persons along with Dr Margrate Chan, Director General World Health Organisation (WHO) and Global Chief, here at his residence. He said that anti-polio campaigns needed to be started on urgent basis to combat the crippling disease and he would personally discuss it with the prime minister, interior minister and the committee formed for talks with the Taliban.
Dr Chan, who was on a one-day visit to Pakistan, earlier called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Mamnoon Hussain.
The PTI chief maintained that there was a warlike situation in North Waziristan Agency, which was under the administrative control of the federal government, but the outbreak of the disease there affects the polio eradication efforts in KP too; so the matter should be a part of peace talks to start vaccination campaigns to reach out thousands of inaccessible children in the area.
He said that killings of health workers started after CIA used Dr Shakil Afridi in its hunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. “Now police officials escort the vaccination teams and are being killed themselves. Around 30 police officials have been killed so far,” he added. Around 260,000 kids have not been vaccinated against polio for the past two years because vaccination teams cannot carry out door-to-door campaigns in the region due to imposition of ban, he further said.
He said the presence of poliovirus in sewage system of Peshawar was a serious concern and under ‘Sehat Ka Insaf’ programme, around 600,000 children had been immunised in Peshawar in one day against nine diseases and polio is one of them. The programme would be initiated in other four districts of the province and the same should be emulated in Karachi too, he suggested.
Dr Margrate Chan said after meeting with the leadership of the country she felt that leaders were committed to the health of women and children. A lot of efforts have been put in and there is a resolve to kick out the virus from the country, she said. But it is still circulating in areas of Pakistan and it remains one of the three polio endemic countries including Afghanistan and Nigeria, she added.
She said the member states of the organisation had serious reservations regarding the virus transmission by Pakistan into polio free world. “The executive committee of the organisation is going to meet in May this year in which they may decide anything about the possible travel restrictions on Pakistan,” she said.
Regarding deaths in Tharparker district, she said the issue was very serious and needed prompt response. She said the PM had requested the WHO to support Pakistan in drought crisis in the district but the technicalities of the support had not been discussed yet. Here the PTI chief promptly commented that the government needed better management and not support. WHO Pakistan Chief Dr Nima Abid, Emergency Coordinator Dr Alias Durry and other officials of the organisation were also on the occasion.