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WHO DG calls for final push on polio eradication

WHO DG calls for final push on polio eradication

Islamabad : The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus concluded his official visit to Pakistan Tuesday, with a call for a final push on polio eradication and commitment to ensure that all people in Pakistan can obtain the healthcare they need.

Addressing a joint press conference here along with the visiting dignitary, Minister for National Health Services Aamer Mehmood Kiani thanked Dr. Tedros for visiting Pakistan for important deliberations on a wide range of areas of health collaboration. “The government is undertaking major reforms in the health sector, and in this context, WHO can work with us to improve healthcare for our people. I look forward to continuing our strong partnership with WHO and our collective hard work to end polio and to improve general health outcomes in Pakistan,” Kiani stated.

Dr. Tedros, accompanied by WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, met several government officials including Prime Minister Imran Khan, Minister of Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister of Finance Asad Umar, Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar and Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari. Dr Tedros also visited the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) for Polio Eradication, a basic health unit in Shah Allah Ditta, and accompanied President Alvi at the launch of the first Pakistan Nursing and Midwifery Summit.

Speaking to Prime Minister Imran Khan, Dr. Tedros appreciated the extraordinary efforts of the government on polio eradication and affirmed WHO’s full support to reach every child and stop the virus for good. “We have a unique opportunity to achieve eradication. To cross the finish line, we need to focus on what we know works: finding the unvaccinated child, working out why that child has not been reached, and then overcoming that specific challenge,” Dr Tedros said. “Failure to eradicate polio would result in global resurgence of the disease, with as many as 200,000 new cases every year, all over the world.”

WHO Regional Director, Dr Al-Mandhari said, “We are here to reaffirm our support for the government’s transformative public health agenda. 2019 promises to see Pakistan take solid steps towards achieving universal health coverage and eradicating polio.”

Dr. Tedros congratulated Pakistan on successful implementation of the nationwide measles campaign in October 2018, which helped vaccinate more than 37 million children against the disease. According to Dr. Tedros, sustained investments are needed to strengthen immunization service delivery and to use every opportunity for delivering lifesaving vaccines to children in Pakistan. Strong routine immunization is also critical to keep Pakistan polio-free.

During his meetings with high-level officials, Dr. Tedros complimented the government on the new initiatives taken to improve the health system in Pakistan. The government’s plans to provide universal health insurance to all Pakistanis, double the health budget by the end of 2020 and increase it to 5% of GDP by 2023 (from the current 0.9% of GDP) are major steps in the right direction to achieve universal health coverage. Dr. Tedros also said WHO would provide all necessary support to implement the Prime Minister’s National Health Programme and to address the critical issue of stunting and malnutrition in Pakistan which is a major barrier to achieving health for all.

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