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The Last Mile: The Urgent Push for Polio Eradication in Pakistan

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Ayanna Amadi
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The Last Mile: The Urgent Push for Polio Eradication in Pakistan

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In 2023, an alarming development shook the health sector in Pakistan: the Poliovirus was detected in sewage water across 20 districts in four major provinces, and there were 5 reported cases of paralysis due to polio. This news underscores the urgent need for continued efforts towards polio eradication in Pakistan, a battle that the country has been fighting for years.

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Revitalized Efforts with Significant Support

These developments have not gone unnoticed on the global stage. The Gates Foundation has extended its support with a significant investment of $59 million towards the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme . This funding includes a €55 million concessional loan and a €20 million principal buy-down from the Gates Foundation. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) also announced new commitments to support the last mile polio eradication efforts in Pakistan . The generous investment aims to help Pakistan's national health institutions and the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative recover from the impacts of devastating floods in August 2022.

Enhancing Systems and Supporting Workers

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Part of the funding will be used to enhance systems targeting climate-sensitive diseases and support female polio healthcare workers. The Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme, driven by trained and dedicated polio workers, aims to interrupt the transmission of the wild poliovirus for good . The partnership between the Gates Foundation and AFD is a long-term response to the 2022 floods and will work towards a strengthened integrated national epidemiological surveillance system.

Government's Response and Call to Action

The Pakistani Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar has announced that the government is stepping up efforts to eliminate polio and resume regular polio immunization campaigns across the country . He expressed concern over recent reports of polio cases in Pakistan and mentioned that emergency polio eradication plans and integrated programs are being formulated and launched in high-risk areas. Kakar emphasized the importance of polio vaccination and called for all segments of society to play their role in polio eradication.

Need for Continued Vigilance

Despite these ongoing efforts and the substantial support, the situation remains critical. The detection of the virus in sewage water and the reported cases of paralysis emphasize the grave nature of the situation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Global Polio Alert, and the World Health Organization confirmed the spread of the poliovirus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Pakistan remains one of only two countries in the world where this virus continues to be a threat to children . Thus, the fight against polio in Pakistan is indeed at its last mile, requiring united and relentless efforts to finally eradicate this debilitating disease.

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