Rotary International is aware of the recent news reports on the polio vaccination program in Pakistan. We continue to work closely with our partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the government of Pakistan to ensure our progress continues.
The good news is that Pakistan has recorded only half as many new polio cases so far this year as it had at the same time last year — this is the best proof that overall immunization coverage is improving as we adapt to the many challenges we continue to face in Pakistan.
In March, I met with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, who reaffirmed his commitment to polio eradication. I thanked him for his continued support and key appointment of Shahnaz Wazir Ali as the overall point person for polio eradication at the federal level.
Pakistani Rotarians also continue to work diligently toward polio eradication. They are actively working alongside health workers, monitoring immunization activities in their communities. District teams and club president-elects received training earlier this year.
Public awareness events have included polio walks, field hockey tournaments and a “Kick Polio out of Pakistan” football tournament. Pakistan Rotarians have partnered with CocaCola Pakistan, which donated billboards and signs. And earlier this month, Rotarians helped to secure the signatures of 150 Pakistani Parliamentarians in support of polio eradication.
In particular, Aziz Memon, Rotary’s National PolioPlus chair for Pakistan, has been instrumental in shoring up support for the program, working through channels at all levels. He even managed to secure the commitment of Pakistan National Cricket Captain Afridi, an extremely well-known public figure, to participate in our global public awareness campaign, “This Close.”
Pakistani and Indian Rotarians also are working together to share best practices and lessons learned from India’s recent success at stopping the spread of indigenous polio, an incredible milestone that removed India from the list of polio-endemic countries.
Pakistan too has made great progress toward polio eradication this year, and we will continue to work in every polio-affected country toward our goal of a world where this terrible disease is no longer a threat to children anywhere.