Harsh Vardhan offers to help Pakistan fight polio

New Delhi: Health Minister Harsh Vardhan Friday offered Pakistan full cooperation in eradicating polio from that country. Pakistan at present accounts for 85 percent of the world's polio cases. On the occasion of World Polio Day, Harsh Vardhan welcomed Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's recent adoption of a "National Emergency Action Plan-2014" on the disease.

Harsh Vardhan, in a statement, said: "I have been through the plan and find that the script is perfect. Pakistan has resolved to set up monitoring cells at the grassroots level. They are also talking of involving social groups, a strategy which worked wonderfully in India."

Recalling the joint statement issued at the end of the foreign minister-level talks in September 2012, he pointed out that the two countries had already talked of institutionalising cooperation on polio eradication through a joint working group. However, there was no significant progress on this front. India achieved full freedom from polio in January 2014, as not a single new case had been detected since January 2011.

The health minster said: "This year's World Polio Day is an emotional experience for me because it is the first to be observed since we became a polio-free nation. When I launched the first Pulse Polio drive in Delhi in 1994, this seemed an impossible dream."

Observing that in the context of Pakistan and Afghanistan, polio is just a bus ride away, he said that special measures have been put in place at border crossings. These include vaccination facilities for travellers both ways to Pakistan and having emergency response plans in place along with teams to execute them, he added.

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