Punjab community leaders unite to end polio

Heads of nine key Punjab priority community organizations have pledged full support to eradicate polio from Punjab. They assured that cooperation will be expanded from mega cities to all districts of the province. The pledge was made at a jirga organized in Lahore on Thursday.

Over 30 representatives of key priority community organizations participated in the jirga, including Pakhtun Falahi Tanzeem, Mohmand Loya Jirga, Afghan Refugees Aman Committee, Khattak Welfare Association, Marwat Welfare Association, Bajaur Ittehad, Hazara Welfare Organization, Minzal Welfare Organization, and Pakhtoon Qabail Movement.

The session was chaired by Mr. Khizer Afzaal, head of the polio program in Punjab and Emergency Operations Centre Coordinator. During the jirga, the organizations recalled initiatives launched in Punjab to eradicate polio. This included awareness branding, blood donations, provision of volunteers for duties at transit points, and polio workers for priority teams.

All representatives and heads of the organizations unanimously agreed to support polio eradication activities. They agreed to assist polio teams in their neighborhoods to ensure that all children are vaccinated. Moreover, they pledged to extend their cooperation to all of Punjab, not just mega cities like Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Faisalabad.

Vow to end polio

During his address to the priority community elders and organization heads, Mr. Afzaal acknowledged the support provided by the priority community in dealing with community reluctance and supplying human resources in priority community neighborhoods.

“Community reluctance has declined with your support. The human resources provided by the priority community, in terms of teams visiting households and vaccinating children, are also yielding results. Years ago, thousands of children missed vaccination due to community reluctance. But with your support, Punjab has been able to overcome that, which is commendable,” he said.

However, he urged the organization heads to expand cooperation to other mega cities. He asked them to help the program identify more bilingual polio workers, and provide more human resources for inclusion in polio teams. Mr. Afzaal shared observations from the delegates of the Polio Oversight Board. He noted the international community’s special interest in eradicating polio from Pakistan.

“As long as polio is endemic in Pakistan and Afghanistan, no country and no child on the globe is safe from polio. So the international community is genuinely concerned about the risk of polio spread in Pakistan,” he reminded the attendees.

Mr. Afzaal noted that Punjab has been polio-free for the last three years. However, the virus continued to be isolated from key cities. All cities in Punjab are at risk of polio virus importation. He recounted the challenges faced by Punjab. The province was at risk due to population movement from all over the country, he said.

He urged participants to improve coordination with authorities in their respective areas. Additionally, he highlighted the need to alert local health departments about the arrival of new communities from other parts of the country.

The EOC coordinator emphasized the government’s focus on routine immunization, calling upon community elders to ensure that all children are vaccinated timely against other vaccine-preventable diseases as well.

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