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Pakistan’s Punjab province close to being polio free

Islamabad, Sep 18 (IANS) Pakistan’s Punjab province is close to being declared polio-free as no case has been reported for over a year – the culmination of an effort that began in 1994.

Overall, no polio cases have been reported for quite some time in 80 percent of the country’s districts, a review meeting here was told on Monday.

Six cases have so far been confirmed this year, mostly from interior Sindh and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) – and the disease is largely confined to areas bordering Afghanistan.

“It is said that the number of polio virus strains prevalent in the country has dropped from almost a dozen few years back to only three,” Dawn reported Tuesday.

The three-day review of the communication strategy for one of the health ministry’s largest public initiatives is being conducted for the first time since the Polio Eradication Campaign was launched in 1994.

The review is being done in collaboration with Unicef, the World Health Organisation, the United States Agency for International Development and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Federal Health Secretary Khushnood Lashari, while speaking at the meeting, said Pakistan had come a long way in its fight against polio.

“With campaign after campaign, we continue to inch towards our ultimate goal, in the process protecting innocent lives from the shadows of disability,” he said, adding that if Pakistan had not held polio immunisation campaigns at regular intervals about 20,000 children would have suffered permanent disability by contracting polio.