UAE enhances campaign against polio - GulfToday

UAE enhances campaign against polio

UAE-Pakistan Polio Drive

A female doctor from the UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme (UAEPAP) at a Pakistani village. The UAEPAP is part of the UAE vaccination campaign which aims to support the health sector and strengthen the country’s polio prevention programs. File/WAM

The news of the launch of the Polio Eradication Strategy 2022-2026: Delivering on a Promise by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is heartening to say the least. The plan helps overcome the remaining challenges to ending polio, including setbacks caused by COVID-19.

While polio cases have fallen 99.9 per cent since 1988, polio remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and persistent barriers to reaching every child with polio vaccines and the pandemic have contributed to an increase in polio cases. Last year, 1,226 cases of all forms of polio were recorded compared to 138 in 2018.

In 2020, the GPEI halted polio door-to-door campaigns for four months to protect communities from the spread of COVID-19 and contributed up to 30,000 programme staff and over $100 million in polio resources to support pandemic response in almost 50 countries.

“With this new strategy, the GPEI has clearly outlined how to overcome the final barriers to securing a polio-free world and improve the health and wellbeing of communities for generations to come,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation and member of the Polio Oversight Board. Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a viral disease of the brain and spinal cord that can cause irreversible paralysis in a matter of hours. Polio vaccine can protect a child for life. Vaccines can be oral or injected.

The disease mainly affects children under five years of age. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs.

Two countries need particular mention here; Pakistan and Afghanistan.  

Leaders from the two countries yet to interrupt wild polio transmission – Pakistan and Afghanistan – called for renewed global solidarity and the continued resources necessary to eradicate this vaccine-preventable disease. They committed to strengthening their partnership with GPEI to improve vaccination campaigns and engagement with communities at high risk of polio.

Dr Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Health, said, “We are already hard at work with our GPEI partners to address the final barriers to ending polio in Pakistan, particularly through strengthening vaccination campaigns and our engagement with high-risk communities. Eradication remains a top health priority and Pakistan is committed to fully implementing the new GPEI strategy. We look forward to working with international partners to achieve a polio-free world.”

Dr Wahid Majrooh, Acting Minister of Public Health for Afghanistan, said, “Afghanistan is fully committed to implementing the new GPEI strategic plan and eradicating polio from its borders. Together we have come so far. Let us take this final step together and make the dream of a polio-free world a reality.”

The 2022-2026 Strategy underscores the urgency of getting eradication efforts back on track and offers a comprehensive set of actions that will position the GPEI to achieve a polio-free world. The measures include implementing innovative new tools, such as digital payments to frontline health workers, to further improve the impact and efficiency of polio campaigns.

Early this year, the UAE Pakistan Assistance Programme (UAE PAP) announced the annual results of the UAE Polio Vaccination Campaign carried out in Pakistan from 2014 to the end of 2020. The campaign succeeded in providing 508,092,472 doses of the polio vaccine to over 86 million children in Pakistan over seven years.

The programme highlighted the fact that the campaign was implemented due to an initiative of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed to eradicate polio around the world, in line with the UAE’s humanitarian approach.

Truly, polio eradication is at a pivotal moment. It is important we capitalise on the momentum of the new strategy.

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