Pakistan begins anti-polio campaign amid steady decline in coronavirus cases

Health workers visit a slum area for polio vaccination in Lahore on Aug. 15, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 16 August 2020

Pakistan begins anti-polio campaign amid steady decline in coronavirus cases

  • 34 million children under the age of five will be vaccinated in 130 districts across the country in August
  • Pakistan's anti-polio efforts were halted in March and resumed only last month amid a decline in infections and fatalities from COVID-19

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani health officials over the weekend launched a seven-day vaccination campaign against polio in efforts to eliminate the disease amid a steady decline in coronavirus cases, which had recently overwhelmed the country’s health system.

During the week-long drive, Pakistan Polio Eradication Program aims to vaccinate 34 million children under the age of five in 130 districts. The country's efforts against polio were halted in March and resumed only last month as the COVID-19 infection started to decrease. On Saturday, Pakistan reported only nine new deaths from the virus. The country's total COVID-19 tally was 288,047, with 6,162 related deaths as of Saturday evening.

The anti-polio campaign started on Thursday in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and was launched on Saturday in Punjab and Sindh. On Monday, vaccination will begin in Balochistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.




A health worker gives a polio vaccine to a baby girl at a slum area in Lahore on Aug. 15, 2020. (AP)

“The August campaign is much bigger than the last campaign held in July, we are hoping to reach many more vulnerable children. I was encouraged with the success of our last campaign, particularly how parents cooperated with vaccinators despite the COVID-19 environment, and how our vaccinators followed the COVID-19 safety precautions they were trained on," Dr. Rana Safdar, who heads the government's polio program, said as this month's mass vaccination commenced. 

He added that similar campaigns against polio will be launched in October, November and December.

Dr. Faisal Sultan, the prime minister's special assistant on public health, expressed hope that parents "will continue to realize the importance of vaccinating their children during this campaign in August and help our nation ultimately end the threat of polio." 

"It is imperative that Pakistan continues its fight against polio with an already accessible, safe and widely used vaccine that has saved countless children from polio worldwide," he said.




A health worker gives a polio vaccine to a child at a slum area in Lahore on Aug. 15, 2020. (AP)

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the three countries in the world where polio — a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the polio virus — is still endemic. Since January, Pakistan has reported about 100 new polio cases in various parts of the country.

Polio is a highly infectious disease mainly affecting children under the age of five years. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from the disease.


Pakistan to establish 18 markets on Afghanistan, Iran borders to boost trade, curb smuggling

Updated 18 September 2020

Pakistan to establish 18 markets on Afghanistan, Iran borders to boost trade, curb smuggling

  • Under the plan, the government will set up 12 markets along the border with Afghanistan and six along the Iran frontier
  • Prime minister approves setting up two border markets in Balochistan and one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by February next year

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government has decided to set up markets along its borders with neighboring Afghanistan and Iran to boost trade opportunities, foster peace and check smuggling, the commerce ministry said on Friday.
Main crossing point into Pakistan for both goods and people from Iran and Afghan also serve as major smuggling routes.
“The border markets will help create job opportunities and establish a peaceful relationship with the neighboring countries,” Aisha Humera Moriani, joint-secretary at the Ministry of Commerce, told Arab News.
Under the plan, the government is establishing 18 markets: 12 along the border with Afghanistan and six along the Iran frontier.
In a meeting on Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan approved setting up two border markets in Balochistan and one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province as a pilot project, to be functional by February next year.
Moriani said the markets would contribute to local development and help the government address “smuggling and boost legal trade across the border.”
Pakistan is fencing its borders with Afghanistan and Iran to check cross-border militancy, illegal movement of people and smuggling, which is a major source of income for people living along border towns and villages.
Sardar Shoukat Popalzai, President Balochistan Economic Forum, said the government should have built “common markets” along the Afghanistan and Iran borders with the mutual consent of the neighboring governments to maximize benefits for people on both sides of the borders.
“The government has not released a feasibility report, if there is any, of these markets as to how are they going to help the local population,” he told Arab News.
Popalzai said Balochistan border areas were sparsely populated and establishment of a few shopping terminals would “hardly make any difference in the lives of the people.”
He said cross-border smuggling was a major source of income for people living in the frontier areas of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, so “this requires a lot more effort than mere setting up of markets to check this undocumented economy.”
Zubair Motiwala, chairman of the Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the government should establish cold storages and warehouses in the border markets to boost the export of perishable and other items to the neighboring countries.
“The taxation system on the exports and imports of different items through the land routes should be well defined to encourage businessmen and locals to boost the legal trade with Afghanistan and Iran,” he said.