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Pakistan Army Supporting Efforts to Eradicate Polio: Gen. Bajwa

by Newsweek Pakistan
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File photo. SS Mirza—AFP

In phone call with Army chief, philanthropist Bill Gates praises military’s role in enabling anti-polio drive

The Pakistan Army is continuing to support the government’s efforts to eradicate the poliovirus despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa told billionaire-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates during a telephone call on Wednesday.

According to a press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the Army chief said preparations were in place to resume the country’s anti-polio campaign in the coming weeks. “Bill Gates appreciated the Pakistan Army’s help in enabling the polio campaign through provision of security, monitoring and bridging of capacity gaps,” read the statement issued by the ISPR.

Gen. Bajwa termed eradication of polio a national duty, adding that the Army had played a significant role in implementing initiatives undertaken by the Government of Pakistan and provincial health departments. “The healthcare workers who played the most important part in polio drives also acted as the frontline defense against COVID-19,” he said.

The military’s media wing said that the two men also discussed the challenges posed by current and future pandemic threats, as well as efforts to enhance the resilience of population through education, flexible healthcare management and use of technology.

The COAS, said ISPR, thanked the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s efforts for the noble cause of polio eradication, and said every initiative aimed at the betterment of Pakistan and its people would be fully supported and appreciated.

Pakistan had brought its reported polio cases down to just 8 in 2017, but has seen a noticeable uptick since the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf came into power. In 2018, after general elections, polio cases rose to 12, then a whopping 146 in 2019, and as of June 2020, there are 50 reported cases nationwide.

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