KARACHI: Philanthropist and chairman of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, called Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Tuesday and appreciated his efforts in trying to eliminate polio virus from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Gates congratulated Imran on conducting a successful anti-polio campaign, ‘Sehat Ka Ittehad’ (Alliance for Health), in the province. He also expressed grief and sorrow over the killing of 131 students during a Taliban attack on school in Peshawar.
The philanthropist assured his support to the KP government in carrying out further efforts to eliminate the crippling disease from the province.
PTI leader Jahangir Tareen said that “Bill Gates appreciated #Sehatkaittehad anti polio initiative led by Imran Khan and said that the initiative offers the only hope.”
Imran Khan reiterated his resolve of making KP a polio-free province and said that all out efforts are being carried out by the provincial government to successfully run the anti-polio campaign.
A KP health official associated with the polio eradication programme told Dawn that ‘Sehat Ka Ittehad’ was a brainchild of PTI chief Imran Khan. Even though there are tensions with the federal government over electoral rigging, but health was a separate subject, he said.
An official of Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) — the nerve centre for all polio-related activities in the country — told Dawn that it was strange that even though the new ‘Sehat Ka Ittehad’ campaign was a joint venture between the federal and KP governments, the EOC and the PM’s Polio Cell were completely unaware of it.
Official data shows that an overwhelming 96 per cent of polio cases so far reported are among the Pashto-speaking population of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata.
The epidemiological statistics of the so far reported cases shows that 82pc cases are among children below 2 years of age, which indicates that either the parents are not willing to vaccinate their children or the teams had no access to those children who were with their mothers and could not be vaccinated outside homes.
Officials say the reason for this factor is that the health authorities are lacking female vaccinators who are more welcome to enter houses to administer polio drops.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that Pakistan is responsible for nearly 80 per cent of polio cases reported globally.
“The situation is primarily due to a lack of access to children for vaccination, largely owing to a continuing ban on immunisation imposed by militants in the North and South Waziristan, and insecurity and killing of polio workers in the field,” said a progress report.