ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari said on Monday that provision of quality health care and prevention of disease were at the top of government’s social agenda. Addressing the launch of National Emergency Action Plan 2011 for Polio Eradication here at the President House, Zardari said that the government of Pakistan People’s Party and its coalition partners were committed to eradicating polio from the country.The President also announced civil awards and conferred President’s Award for Pride of Performance on Aziz Memon, Chairman of Pakistan National Polio Plus committee and Sitar-e Khidmat on Dr Robert S. Scott, Chairman of Rotary International Polio Plus Committee and Chairman of the Rotary International.The event was attended by Health Minister Makhdoom Shahabuddin, federal ministers, ministers of state, provincial health ministers and members of parliament.President Zardari said that the comprehensive plan for polio eradication, prepared by health managers and professionals, was clear and doable and should address issues of access, insecurity, accountability and ownership.He also appreciated the commitment of the entire leadership of the country who came together earlier this month to review and endorse the new National Emergency Plan.
“I assure you that there will be strict oversight of the plan at the national and provincial levels through monitoring cells,” he informed.The President said polio was a crippling disease and continues to threaten opportunities for children. He said unfortunately Pakistan was among few countries which were still not completely polio free.
“We are committed to banish polio from Pakistan,” the President said and pointed that the Polio Eradication Initiative was, first launched by the government of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.The President said the Lady Health Workers Programme and Polio Eradication Initiative were both launched by her government and added that it was intended to bring primary health care services to those that need them the most.“It was a demonstration of her commitment to improving the social sector, particularly the health of children,” President Zardari said.He said that she was the first Prime Minister to have personally administered polio drops to a Pakistani child. “That child was no less than our own daughter, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari,” he added.He said that the government had nominated Aseefa Bhutto Zardari as Pakistan’s Ambassador for Polio Eradication and that she was committed to carry forward the mission of her great mother.
“Together she will work with you to end Polio. Together we will end Polio from the country,” he said.He said Pakistan has come a long way from 1994, when the Polio eradication campaign was first launched formally and the number of cases was more than 30,000.He noted that the Polio cases have come down significantly, however the country was not yet completely Polio free.“Our aim is to make Pakistan completely Polio free. We aim that no child lives in the fear of being crippled for life.”He asked parents to shoulder responsibility with the government to wage campaign against Polio on a war footing.
For the sake of future generations, the government with the help of its partners will make the campaign successful, he added.To achieve this objective Pakistan needs to produce polio vaccines within the country, he said adding that during his last visit to China the two countries signed an MOU on cooperation in manufacture of vaccines.“Hopefully this cooperation will also be extended to manufacture of polio vaccines in Pakistan for nationwide anti-polio programmes.”
President Zardari recalled his meeting with Bill Gates, during his recent visit to the United States and said that the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation were providing great support to the cause of polio eradication.“I wish to acknowledge and appreciate the Gates Foundation’s contribution to saving Pakistani children from polio.”He said that child health was the collective responsibility of all and acknowledged that sectors outside the health were also playing a positive role.“We need this spirit of partnership in the country at this critical time,” he added.He also called upon the provincial and district leadership to play a strong role in carrying forward the campaign.“Let us pledge that no child, who should get polio drops, will be missed out. We are mindful of the challenges polio campaign has been facing.”The President complimented the Ministry of Health, provincial health departments, the Rotary International, the diplomatic community and international partner agencies in making the launch of the programme possible.The President formally launched the campaign by administering polio drops to orphaned children from all the provinces.Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Health Makhdoom Shahabuddin highlighted various aspects of the national plan – APP