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KP govt launches massive immunisation programme

26 January, 2014

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government would spend a whopping Rs20 billion here in the provincial capital over the next three months to curb the endemic polio and eight other child-related diseases, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan said Saturday.

This is a massive immunisation programme that would inoculate 800,000 children in Peshawar against nine diseases with the help of 12,500 "volunteers."

The programme, Sehat Ka Insaf, was launched in the backdrop of World Health Organisation's report that declared Peshawar the "largest reservoir" of polio in the world. Imran Khan claimed it was "the biggest ever immunisation programme in Pakistan" that was being launched to protect children against polio, tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, meningitis, pneumonia, measles and hepatitis B—all curable but taking lives of children in the country.

The PTI government would engage 12,500 "volunteers" who would go door-to-door to vaccinate children. This programme was launched at a time when polio workers and their police escorts have been under growing attacks.

Imran Khan held the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) responsible for attacks on polio workers and police officials. He said the attacks had so far killed 30 police officials and 20 polio workers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone. "CIA abused polio programme for its (military) objective and put at risk the lives of all polio workers and children," he said at a news conference where he launched the programme.

"I condemn both Dr Shakil Afridi and the CIA in the strongest words for doing it," he said. The CIA's fake campaign, he added, had undercut immunisation efforts in Pakistan and caused threats to vaccinators but children could not be left to bear the brunt. "We cannot put the lives of our children at risk by giving in to threats and attacks," he said, adding that 250,000 children died annually in Pakistan due to curable disease. He lamented the child mortality rate in the country was the highest in the world. "The nation cannot progress until children are healthy," he said.

He feared travel ban on Pakistanis and said those applying for work in Dubai and other countries would suffer the most. "This programme is not going to benefit PTI but the country," he said in reply to a question whether other diseases were clubbed with polio to dilute fears about polio.Acknowledging that fear was contagious among vaccinators, Imran said the government would provide security to them.

"I have complete sympathy with those who are unwilling to participate in immunisation programme because there is fear," he said when his attention was drawn towards refusal by teachers to take part in the immunisation drive. "Threat to polio campaigners is an issue, but we will engage the police and the government to provide security to the vaccinators because this is the (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) government's top priority," he added.

He stonewalled a question about the perpetrators of attacks on polio workers. "This is a question about conflict and I will have to conduct another press conference on this issue," he said, leaving the question unanswered.

Imran Khan, flanked by PTI central leader Jehangir Tareen, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, Health Minister Shaukat Yousafzai and Information Minister Shah Farman, said this programme would currently be run only in Peshawar over the period of three months. He promised to expand it to the province at a later stage. The PTI chief said the drive would cover 30,000 households in Peshawar.

"The teams will have one kit with vaccines for all diseases. Never in the history of Pakistan has such a massive campaign against all child-related diseases taken place," he maintained.

According to Imran Khan, awareness about dengue fever would also be raised during the campaign.

End.

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