cjepivo.jpg
Photograph: HINA

Pakistan launched on Monday the first part of an anti-polio campaign to vaccinate more than 22 million children under age 5, with the aim to achieve polio-free status by the end of 2019.

The four-day drive aims to reach 7.4 million children in northern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, as well as Sindh province in the south, said Rana Safdar, coordinator of the National Emergency Operation Cell for Polio Eradication.

Another 15 million children will be vaccinated in the second phase from April 25-28, he said.

"Our aim is to be recognized as a polio-free country by the end of 2019," said Safdar.

This year, only eight cases of polio have been reported, far below the 22 instances in the same period last year.

"Another two years without any new cases will earn polio-free status for Pakistan," Safdar said, adding that "we are on track to achieve the target."

More than 15,000 personnel have been deployed with the polio teams to provide security during the latest campaign, held on the heels of another drive last month to vaccinate more than 36 million children.

Pakistan's polio eradication efforts have been hit by militant attacks on polio teams, with nearly 100 vaccinators and security personnel killed since 2012, according to officials.

Only 54 polio cases were reported for the whole of last year, down from 306 in 2014. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only polio-endemic countries.

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