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October 26, 2020

Anti-polio drive: UAE campaign reaches over 16m children in three months

National

October 26, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates has announced that it administered over 28 million polio vaccine doses in Pakistan during July to September 2020 and reached over 16 million children.

Pakistan is one of the three remaining countries in the world along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, which are yet to be declared polio-free, a virus that has not been seen in the rest of the world since 1990.

The UAE government is extending a helping hand to Pakistan to make the country polio-free by the year 2022 through its polio initiative in Pakistan called the Emirates Polio Campaign (EPC). The EPC announced this on 8th annual World Polio day that it had administered over 28 million vaccine doses in Pakistan between July and September 2020, reaching over 16 million children. The Emirates Polio Campaign was launched in 2014 after 306 cases were reported in Pakistan which amounted to 85 per cent of the cases that year in the whole world. The initiative was launched under the directives of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to provide help and humanitarian assistance to the people of Pakistan and support their development initiatives for a better future.

The announcement comes on the heels of the EPC’s recent announcement that it had completed the world’s first polio vaccination campaign since the outbreak of Covid-19 this spring. Pakistan, which has been labeled the “final frontier for global polio eradication” by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, has recorded 79 wild polio cases so far in 2020, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Last year, the country reported 147 cases, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

The campaign works in cooperation with the command of Pakistan armed forces, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the Pakistani Ministry of National Health Services, and Ministries of Health offices in the provincial governments.

Since its launching, the campaign has delivered more than 483 million polio vaccines, reaching 86 million children across Pakistan. Director of the UAE Pakistan Assistance Programme Abdullah Khalifa Al-Ghafli stated that "the EPC reflects Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s commitment to strengthen global cooperation to prevent the spread of polio and to protect children from this preventable disease.

"Since its founding, the EPC has accomplished a tremendous amount in reaching millions of children with this critical vaccination. We know there is still work ahead in our goal of ensuring every child has a chance at a healthy future and we remain committed to the last mile in eradicating this disease."

Earlier this year, vaccination programmes around the world were halted due to the outbreak of Covid-19 and many leaders in the health community warned of a potential new polio crisis. However, the Emirates Polio Campaign overcame these new challenges and was the first programme in the world to resume polio vaccinations. Since resuming vaccination campaigns in July, the EPC has also taken a strong role in protecting and educating the communities they serve about Covid-19.

During July and August, frontline health workers distributed hundreds of thousands of masks and sanitisers to homes as well as health facilities. In addition, through the frontline health workers network, the EPC distributed a suite of videos and other digital materials on Covid-19 prevention using social media platforms.