ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s Polio Ambassador Aseefa Bhutto Zardari chaired the polio review meeting with ICT and CDA officials here requesting the officials to engage private schools and hospitals to achieve better coverage targets.

In a meeting with ICT and CDA officials, Pakistan’s Polio Ambassador Aseefa Bhutto Zardari was informed that most of the refusal cases were from the educated and elite class. “Most people with big houses don’t open their gates,” said the official. He informed that mostly people get their children immunised by private hospitals or don’t get the drops at all. The officials also informed that private schools do not campaign for polio although they have pre-schools, which government schools don’t. Both officials from CDA and ICT agreed that refusals from private schools need to be addressed by engaging Private Educational Institution Regulatory Authority (PEIRA).

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari said that is should be made mandatory for all private schools to vaccinate their children against polio and private hospitals should also be contacted. The Ambassador was briefed by Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Amir Ali Ahmed of the demographics of the capital with 45% Urban population, 14% Urban Slums and 40% rural villages which posed a challenge in terms of outreach by the polio teams. The officials informed that coverage of upcoming private high rise buildings and slums remains an issue for the polio teams. CDA informed that one person per high rise building has been designated to ensure full coverage.

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari also gave a suggestion to the officials to include one or more female and a person who speaks the local dialect in order to connect to the people as well as avoid mishaps caused by miscommunication. She also said that there should be adequate security arrangements for polio workers in Islamabad.

Speaking on the occasion, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister and PM’s Polio Focal Person Shahnaz Wazir Ali made a suggestion to the officials that certificate or health immunization cards be made and checked by schools to ensure everyone has been immunized against the disease. She said that Islamabad is a real challenge for polio eradication with more than 500,000 people travelling in and out of the city throughout the year. Shahnaz Wazir Ali urged Chairman CDA to speak to the Imam of Faisal Mosque to raise awareness about polio though his Friday sermons along with other mosques.

Dr Altaf Bosan National Coordinator of PM polio monitoring and coordination cell said that Islamabad with huge population influx remains a challenge and campaign coverage must be of the highest level to meet the situation.

Dr Hassan Orooj, Director Health CDA informed that a permanent transit strategy must be instituted for which 12 entry and exit points have been earmarked for this purpose so that anyone coming in and out of Islamabad is vaccinated. He also informed the Ambassador about ongoing efforts to eradicate polio from the capital. He said that the Chairman CDA had allocated Rs1 million for the polio operations room.

Dr Elias Durray WHO Polio Chief said that although the environmental samples are collected every week and there are no cases detected, we still need to be varying as the virus is circulating. He said that there was a large number of children in the capital city that were constantly been missed.