UAE vaccinates 71m children against polio in Pakistan

More than 407 million polio vaccines are administered to children under the age of five in Pakistan between 2014 and April this year

A Pakistani Christian health worker administers polio vaccine drops to a child during a polio vaccination campaign in a Christian colony in Islamabad on December 12, 2018. The United States on Tuesday added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, ramping up pressure over the uneasy ally's treatment of minorities. / AFP / FAROOQ NAEEM
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More than 71 million Pakistani children have been vaccinated against polio as part of a UAE campaign in the South Asian country that began five years ago. 

About 407 million drops of polio vaccine were given to children under the age of five in Pakistan between 2014 and April this year as part of the Emirates Polio Campaign.

The figures were released on Saturday by the UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme, a joint health initiative between the countries that supports efforts to eradicate the disease worldwide.

The programme was launched on orders from President Sheikh Khalifa and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, in 2014.

Until 2017, the campaign administered 254.4 million doses of vaccines to 43 million children in Pakistan. Last year, coverage was extended to include a further 83 areas in four provinces, including high-risk areas, helping reach a further 34 million children.

More than 97,000 polio workers, including doctors, nurses, security staff and co-ordination teams, are on the ground and now planning additional campaign rounds from June to December this year.

Children are vaccinated through fixed polio teams at health centres or by roaming teams designated to cover villages. Polio teams also visit refugee camps. The programme has also organised media campaigns to encourage parents to vaccinate their children against the crippling and sometimes fatal disease, and trained local medical staff to administer the inoculation.

The polio campaign is being carried out in co-operation with the Pakistan Army, Unicef, World Health Organisation, National Institute of Health Services of Pakistan, Ministries of Health of provincial governments and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Since 2011, the UAE has been a partner of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's mission to eradicate polio across the world.

The global campaign was launched in 1988, with international support. The UAE was declared free from polio in 1992.

epa07477933 A health worker marks the little finger of a child after administering polio vaccination to children in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 01 April 2019. Since the beginning of 2019 three new Polio cases have been reported, two from Kandahar and one from Uruzgan province. Afghanistan is one of the two countries along with neighboring Pakistan where polio is still endemic, crippling hundreds of children every year.  EPA/MUHAMMAD SADIQ
A health worker marks the finger of a child after administering polio vaccination to children in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in April 2019. Muhammad Sadiw / EPA

The disease is easily prevented by a simple vaccine developed in 1955 and has been almost entirely eradicated in the West for more than half a century. Australia was declared polio free in 1972 and the UK in 1982.

In Pakistan, cases of polio have reduced from 306 in 2014 to 12 last year.

According to WHO’s regional office for the Eastern Mediterranean, worldwide polio cases decreased from 359 cases in nine countries in 2014 to 33 cases in 2018, 12 cases in Pakistan and the remaining 21 cases in Afghanistan.