Islamabad: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) leadership is committed to protect Pakistani children from polio through its Emirates Polio Campaign by 2022, the UAE ambassador said as Prime Minister Imran Khan launched new immunisation campaign in Islamabad.

The UAE is a partner in Pakistan’s new anti-polio campaign that begins on December 16 to vaccinate around 39.6 million children countrywide with the help of 260,000 vaccinators. The program would be implemented through the UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme (UAE PAP).

“The UAE has played a major role in eradicating polio by actively contributing to the financing and support of critical vaccination campaigns” said UAE ambassador Hamad Obaid Ebrahim Salem Al Zaabi. As a result of the initiatives, “millions of children globally have received the necessary vaccines to prevent the spread of polio, as 418,956,226 drops of polio vaccines were delivered to Pakistani children from 2014 until September 2019” in various regions of Pakistan, including KPK, FATA and Balochistan, according to the official statement.

The number of polio cases reduced significantly since 2014 due to the efforts of Emirates Polio Campaign and other partners helping the government of Pakistan, the ambassador noted. The Emirates Polio Campaign reached some 16 million children per month in 2019 with the support of 106,000 physicians, observers, and vaccination teams and over 25,000 security and coordination teams to reach the 103 polio stronghold areas in Pakistan.

On Friday at the launch of the new immunisation campaign, Imran Khan urged all Pakistanis to support the government’s anti-polio efforts to protect the children as he personally administered the polio vaccine to a group of children. He advised parents with children less than five years old to get their kids vaccinated.

The premier regretted that Pakistan was one of only two countries where polio remained endemic and noted that the ongoing spread of poliovirus could have serious implications for Pakistan. The number of polio cases reduced to 12 in 2018 but soared to 98 this year with 72 cases reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province alone.

Earlier, Dr. Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to the prime minister on National Health Services, appreciated the continued role of UAE in fight against polio. Dr Mirza told the media that the UAE Ambassador personally discussed the new vaccination campaign and different approaches and “assured complete cooperation” in this regard.

The UAE has long been recognised as a champion for polio eradication efforts and has provided $167 million in contributions to support global efforts with a special focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan. UAE PAP that began work in 2010 covers significant development sectors such as education, infrastructure, safe drinking water, health care and polio eradication.

Emirates Polio Campaign in numbers:

418,956,226 drops of polio vaccines delivered to Pakistani children from 2014 till 2019

16 million Pakistani children reached in 103 regions in 2019

106,000 physicians and vaccination teams and over 25,000 security staff

Facts on Polio Virus

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries where wild polio circulates.

In 2017, polio cases in Pakistan dropped to but soared to 98 this year

Barriers towards polio eradication include insecurity, misinformation, parental refusal, inconsistent campaign quality and hard-to-reach areas.