Polio assistance: Pakistan may lose $130 million annual aid

A national emergency plan should be shaped and steps should be taken to eradicate the polio virus on an emergency basis. PHOTO: FILE

A national emergency plan should be shaped and steps should be taken to eradicate the polio virus on an emergency basis. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: Following the abolition of the polio monitoring and coordination cell, the future of the annual aid of $130 million drawn from the Bill Gates Foundation has become increasingly uncertain.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) wrote a letter to the caretaker government a couple of days back and asked it to restore the monitoring cell, established by the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government in 2011.

Pakistan was set a target of eradicating polio by 2012, but in some cases, polio is being reported from three countries, including Pakistan, as mentioned in the letter. The letter revealed that Pakistan never stopped polio virus transmission and has been a source for the international spread of the virus to other countries in Asia and Africa. Therefore, a national emergency plan should be shaped and steps should be taken to eradicate the polio virus on an emergency basis.

According to the letter, Pakistan developed a National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) which successfully reduced polio by 71 per cent from 2011 to 2012. This year, the country has reported nine cases, compared to the 22 detected last year, the letter added.

The polio drive would be adversely affected since the government of Pakistan has shut down the monitoring cell. The letter stated that WHO and Unicef would continue helping the authorities to eradicate the polio virus from the country.

The special envoy of Bill Gates Foundation, Dr Waqar Ajmal, got in touch with the government and has underscored the need for the restoration of the polio monitoring cell. Dr Ajmal voiced fears that the country might not receive the annual aid that originates from the Bill Gates Foundation.

He expressed his concern over the government’s decision to shut down the polio monitoring cell and requested President Aisf Ali Zardari to restore the cell immediately.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2013.

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