n Shehbaz terms ‘polio-free Pakistan’ a national goal n Also launches Rs37b cash program to give Rs25,000 to each flood-hit family.


ISLAMABAD    -   Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif yesterday launched the nationwide anti-polio drive by administering drops of polio vaccine to children under five years of age, here at the Prime Minister’s House.

On the occasion, the prime minister vowed to get the country free from polio, which he said was affecting the children in some areas.

He regretted that polio was one of the few countries in the world where polio was still recognized as an endemic viral infection.

He urged the parents not to miss getting their children administered the polio drops and support the government’s goal to make Pakistan polio-free.

The prime minister expressed Pakistan’s commitment to ending polio and emphasised the role of the government leaders, health workers, and parents to ensure that the disease never paralyzed a child jointly.

He said by keeping up the momentum and staying vigilant, Pakistan would be able to win the challenge of polio eradication.

Sharif called upon the federal, provincial and district managements to address the challenges of persistently missed children and also encourage the people by raising awareness about the gravity of the situation. He paid tribute to the polio workers for relentlessly carrying out the drive in far-flung areas despite the challenges including resistance and refusals by some community members.

Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah, Federal Minister for Health Abdul Qadir Patel, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and representatives of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation attended the ceremony.

Earlier, the PM launched a Rs 37 billion relief program to provide Rs 25,000 cash assistance each among 1.5 million families across the flood-hit areas of the country.

The prime minister, addressing the launching ceremony, said the cash disbursement would be done through Benazir Income Support Program in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Authority and other allied departments.

He said the heavy monsoon rains and consequent floods affected all four provinces with Balochistan being the most affected where hundreds of the people died and infrastructure destroyed.

He also paid tribute to the six martyred army officers including Quetta Corps Commander Lt. General Sarfaraz who sacrificed their lives in a chopper crash during the flood relief operation.

Mentioning his multiple visits to the flood-hit areas, the prime minister appreciated the rescue and relief efforts of all including NDMA, PDMAs, National Highway Authority, and other provincial departments.

“The whole nation needs to unite to face this situation. The federal and provincial governments are also cooperating with one another. Our international partners and donors are also extending their support,” he added.

The prime minister told the gathering that the cash assistance program, launched in JhalMagsi area of Balochistan, would support over Rs 9 million people across the country.

As assured by the NDMA chairman, the prime minister said the cash disbursement would be completed within three days to help the people afford their food and other immediate needs.

He said in the next phase, a joint survey would be carried out to assess the damages to crops, houses, highways and bridges which would follow the coordination with provinces to carry out the rehabilitation work.

The prime minister also thanked Finance Minister Miftah Ismail for scraping Rs 37 billion from the national kitty to support the flood-hit people in that distressing time.

The program has initially been launched in four districts of Balochistan including Jhal Magsi, Khuzdar, Qilla Abdulla and Lasbella. Through a video link, the beneficiaries in Jhal Magsi area were also shown receiving the cash assistance.

Planning Minister AhsanIqbal, who also heads the Flood Relief Committee told the gathering that being one of the five countries facing the worst impact of climate change, said Pakistan needed not only to support its people but also redesign its infrastructure to avert losses in future.

He said in the first phase, the committee identified the areas worst hit by the floods to provide the cash assistance. In the second phase, a joint survey would be done to assess damages to houses and crops for their rehabilitation.

In the third phase, he said the government would seek help from international development partners for redesigning the infrastructure to prevent flood-caused damages in the future.

Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety ShaziaMarri, through video link, apprised the gathering of the death toll by the flood.

She said the country got unprecedented heavy rains which were yet going on in some areas deteriorating the flood situation.

She assured that the BISP would ensure transparent cash disbursement based on the available data.

NDMA Chairman Lt General Akhtar Nawaz said the country got an overall 150% more rains in Pakistan and 318% in Balochistan.

He said the NDMA and other institutions like Pakistan Army were actively engaged in rescue and relief operations, besides the United Nations and other development partners also extending cooperation.

He said the cash assistance would be disbursed across 724 union councils of four provinces which would follow the disbursement of compensation amount for the flood-caused losses.