Pakistan begins anti-polio drive to vaccinate 30 mln children 

A health worker (L) administers polio vaccine drops to a child during a polio vaccination door-to-door campaign at a low-income residential area in Islamabad on September 21, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 26 October 2020

Pakistan begins anti-polio drive to vaccinate 30 mln children 

  • More than 200,000 frontline workers will participate in door-to-door program to immunize children below five years of age 
  • Nearly 80 new cases of polio have been reported since January this year 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday began an anti-polio drive to vaccinate nearly 30 million children in 128 districts across the country as part of a campaign which ends on November 1. 

For the purpose, 210,000 frontline workers will participate in the door-to-door initiative to immunize children below five years of age, a statement released by Pakistan Polio Eradication Program (PPEP) said on Monday. 

It added that during smaller campaigns launched in July and August, frontline workers had been trained in anti-COVID-19 precautionary measures, such as proper use of face masks, regular hand washing, and maintaining a safe social distance during the door-to-door visits. 

“Polio workers have been trained in COVID-19 protocols...and the anti-polio campaign would be utilized to raise awareness about preventive measures against coronavirus as well,” it said. 

All polio activities in Pakistan came to a halt when the World Health Organization (WHO) decided in late March that they should be suspended to avoid placing communities and frontline workers at the risk of contracting COVID-19. 

Pakistan resumed its anti-polio drive on July 20, after a four-month break and in smaller numbers, with the campaign used to raise awareness about the coronavirus disease as well.

According to the WHO, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries in the world where polio continues to be a threat, with Pakistan reporting 79 new cases since January this year. 

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus, 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 this crippling disease. 

“Each time a child under the age of five is vaccinated, their protection against the virus is increased. Repeated immunizations have protected millions of children from polio, allowing almost all countries in the world to become polio-free,” the PPEP statement said. 


Breakthrough project in Sindh turns Pakistan into palm oil producing country

Updated 28 November 2020

Breakthrough project in Sindh turns Pakistan into palm oil producing country

  • Oil content of palm fruit from Sindh's plantation in Thatta is 2 percent higher than the world average
  • Pakistan consumes 4.5 million tons of edible oil a year, of which some 90 percent is imported, mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia

KARACHI: Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province has successfully completed a pilot oil palm cultivation and extraction project, putting the country on the list of palm oil producers. 
An oil extraction facility at the site of the pilot oil palm plantation in the province’s southern Thatta district produced its first oil last week. The development is seen as a breakthrough for the South Asian nation which is heavily dependent on palm oil imports.

“The palm oil extraction is being done as a test run at the moment and the results are wonderful and very encouraging,” Muhammad Aslam Ghouri, secretary of Sindh’s Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development which is running the project, told Arab News on Friday.

The Rs25 million ($157,000) pilot project started in 2016 on 50 acres of coastal land. 

“In 2016, Malaysian experts came here and they studied everything including soil and environment and they certified that the fruit is very good,” Ghouri said. “The oil content of the palm fruit is 2 percent higher than the world average.” 

The site of a pilot oil palm plantation in Sindh's Thatta district on July 24, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Sindh's Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development)

The yield from the fertile soil is also encouraging as even 60 palm trees can be grown on each acre.

Pakistan consumes around 4.5 million tons of edible oil a year, of which some 90 percent is imported, mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia — the world’s biggest producers of the commodity.

While the Thatta oil extraction facility can produce only up to two tons of oil a day, Ghouri believes the reliance on imports can be greatly reduced if the Sindh project is expanded.

Seeing the project as a “game changer” for the province and country, the Sindh government has already allocated an additional 1,600 acres for palm cultivation, which it further plans to expand to 3,000 acres. 

Ghouri said that ECC&CD has already invited farmers and private firms to show the “success story” and encourage them to invest and join the industry.
“Seeing the success of this pilot project we can safely say that in future when there is investment in this sector, private parties come in to start palm plantation and invest in oil extraction mills as we have shown that it can be done. Then this (less reliance on imports) can happen.”

An oil palm from Sindh's plantation in Thatta on July 24, 2020. The oil content of the plantation's palm fruit is 2 percent higher than the world average. (Photo courtesy: Sindh's Environment, Climate Change and Coastal Development)

Oil traders, however, say that there is a long way ahead before Pakistan will be able to offset the imports of the staple commodity. 
“It is a step in the right direction that has a potential to substitute palm oil imports and save foreign exchange, but it would take time to make any meaningful contribution as the country imports on an average 100,000 tons of palm oil per month,” Ismail Wali, an oil trader at Jodia Bazaar in Karachi, told Arab News.
Farmers are less enthusiastic as they remember a similar initiative being undertaken in 1996 to develop the country’s vast coastal belt into an oil palm cultivation hub. For two decades the project was neglected, causing huge losses. 
“We had imported expensive samplings of palm and planted over an area of 400 acres in Mirpur Sakro, Thatta district,” Mumrez Khan, a former oil palm farmer, told Arab News.

“We had to abandon the plantation in 2009 due to lack of support and required guidance from the government.”