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Pakistan’s New Government Should Aim To Eradicate Polio

“When Pakistan’s new government is sworn in on Wednesday it has a historic opportunity” — “to eradicate polio from Pakistan, one of three countries where the crippling disease remains endemic,” Sania Nishtar, a federal minister in the government of Pakistan, writes in the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog. “But they must overcome critical challenges to succeed,” including “providing security to health workers, … reaching children from marginalized groups,” and dispelling “deep-seated opposition among some religious leaders who are able to persuade parents not to vaccinate their children against the disease,” she continues.

“I became the government’s federal cabinet minister and the lead for health in the interim government two months ago and have been working to keep up the fight against polio in the country,” Nishtar writes. “Most notably, we have reinstated the federal level ministry of health that was abolished in 2010 when all health powers went to the four provincial governments,” she states. Nishtar outlines several important steps in the fight against polio, including continuing a national health system restructuring, prioritizing the implementation of clean water and sanitation projects, and “winning support among the hierarchy of clerics through the ministry of religious affairs.” She concludes, “By making polio history the new government will build a legacy that permeates across our health system. They will also honor our brave health workers who have given their lives in the battle to purge the country of this disease” (6/4).