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UNICEF support polio eradication in Pakistan: UNICEF

ISLAMABAD, June 13 (DNA):  George Laryea-Adjei on Sunday concluded his
first official visit to Pakistan as UNICEF Regional Director for South
Asia by stressing the importance of ensuring continuity of essential
services for women and children.

“We know that COVID-19-related disruptions have had a devastating impact
on the most vulnerable children and families over the past year,” George
Laryea-Adjei said, according to UNICEF.

“It is critical to ensure that lifesaving, essential services for
children and mothers, including routine immunization, keep running even
as the pandemic continues. UNICEF will continue to support the
Government to respond to the pandemic and to build more resilient health
and education systems that can reach every child.”

The UNICEF Regional Director began his visit by meeting Prime Minister
Imran Khan with members of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative Board
in Islamabad. Together with Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director
for the Eastern Mediterranean, and representatives of the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation, Laryea-Adjei attended the launch of the June polio
campaign.

“It is inspiring to see the commitment of frontline workers and
communities towards our joint vision of a polio-free Pakistan. I applaud
the efforts to deepen the link between the polio eradication programme
and routine immunization, which is a significant step in the right
direction,” Laryea-Adjei said.

Laryea-Adjei visited Peshawar’s Shaheen Muslim Town and Karachi’s Gujro,
two super high-risk districts in the north-western Khyber Paktunkhwa
province and in the south-eastern Sindh province where polio is endemic.

UNICEF works with provincial authorities to run Integrated Services
Delivery programmes that seek to provide a package of essential services
in high-risk communities. Through the integrated approach, children are
not only given polio drops but also immunized against other diseases and
provided with a package which includes screening and treatment for
malnutrition; birth registration; access to safe drinking water and
sanitation services; advice on hygiene, child health care and early
childhood development.

The Regional Director also stressed the need to overcome the devastating
impact of the new surge of COVID-19.

“We may be exhausted, but the virus is not. As I speak, the virus
continues to spread in South Asia, health workers are putting themselves
at risk, and health systems are struggling,” Laryea-Adjei said. “Over
one billion people are still waiting for their vaccine in the region.
This includes over seven million frontline health workers who still are
not fully vaccinated. The longer this virus continues to spread
unchecked, the higher the risk of more deadly or contagious variants
emerging. World leaders must step up to share excess doses and ensure
health systems in South Asia are prepared for future waves of COVID-19.”

On Thursday, Laryea-Adjei visited the Pakistan Institute of Medical
Sciences (PIMS) in Islamabad. A center of excellence, PIMS implements
low cost, high impact interventions supported by UNICEF to save newborn
lives. During his visit, the Regional Director met with mothers who are
taught how to use ‘skin-to-skin’ contact to help care for their
premature newborns in the Kangaroo-Mother Care unit. He discussed with
front-line workers who work in the 24-hour immunization service room to
make sure that no baby is discharged without receiving their first
immunization dose of polio, tuberculosis, and hepatitis B vaccines.

“Despite progress, Pakistan remains one of the countries with the
highest number of newborn deaths in South Asia, with one newborn dying
every two minutes,” Laryea-Adjei said. “The country is headed in the
right direction thanks to new policies and the dedication of front-line
workers. However, more investment is needed in cost-effective, quality
interventions to ensure every child survives its first days of life.”=DNA

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