Media urged to help eradicate polio by mobilising people
QUETTA: The media must play its due role for eradication of the polio virus by mobilising populations and raising awareness about the crippling disease.
After the eradication of smallpox, polio is cornered in Pakistan and Afghanistan and the world is looking towards both countries to defeat the virus and declare the complete eradication of the disease. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are very close to achieving this feat and the media must extend a helping hand in this noble cause.
These views were shared by Coordinator of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), Dr Saif ur Rehman, with Quetta-based journalists at a roundtable discussion organised by the EOC on Tuesday.
Journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, who moderated the discussion, urged his colleagues and peers to play their role in developing a positive national narrative regarding the elimination of polio.
Presenting facts and figures on the progress of the ongoing anti-polio campaigns in Balochistan, Dr Rehman said that the province is constantly recording almost 95 per cent vaccination among children less than 5 years of age. He expressed the hope that the menace of polio will be eradicated from the province in the coming months.
He said that pro-active and dynamic working procedures have been put in place to improve coordination with the bordering provinces in Afghanistan to stop the transmission of the virus along the Kandahar-Quetta-Karachi corridor.
Dr Rehman said that the polio virus usually reached Balochistan from Karachi and Kandahar in Afghanistan.
“Recently, the polio virus detected in Quetta originated from Gaddap town in Karachi,” he said, adding that Balochistan had achieved a 72 per cent reduction in polio cases. He said that this year, only eight polio cases were reported from across the world, including seven in Pakistan and one in Afghanistan.
Dr Rehman requested the media to generate a demand from within communities for anti-polio and other vaccinations to safeguard their children against all crippling and deadly diseases.
He said that since the finish line for polio eradication was almost in sight, the media could provide much needed support to make polio eradication one of the prime national motives.
Mr Yousafzai said that “the country is facing hurdles in tackling both polio and terrorism. Polio is considered as dangerous as terrorism”. He added that all the stakeholders would have to come together and devise an effective strategy to tackle the crippling disease.
He cited the example of the different Afghan tribes, groups and nationalities who despite being at loggerheads on many issues, were united in their efforts for polio eradication. “The warring groups in Afghanistan stop fighting whenever an anti-polio drive starts in their respective areas,” he said, adding that anti-polio campaigns were even under way in areas controlled by Taliban militants.
Another journalist suggested that the electronic media can play an even bigger role by giving more airtime to social and health issues related to polio. He urged international donor agencies and other organisations working on polio eradication to approach the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), Pakistan Broadcasting Association (PBA), Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) and other media organisations to sensitise media owners for raising awareness on the dangers of the polio virus.
The session was attended by representatives of WHO and UNICEF and senior journalists.