Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, the youngest daughter of President Asif Ali Zardari and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto as an ambassador of national polio eradication campaign. The announcement was made in a ceremony of national polio campaign launched by President Asif Ali Zardari at the Aiwan e Sadr here. President Zardari called upon the provincial and district leaderships to play a strong role in carrying forward the campaign, one of the biggest in the country’s history.
The President recalled that the Polio Eradication Initiative was first launched by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
“It was a demonstration of her commitment to improving the social sector, particularly the health of children. She was the first Prime Minister to have personally administered polio drops, to a Pakistani child. That child was no less than our own daughter, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari,” he added.
He termed nomination of Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, as Pakistan’s Ambassador for Polio Eradication, a step to carry forward the mission of her great mother.
The President regretted that Aseefa wanted to be personally present here and participate in the event. However, she could not come due to her studies.
“Together she will work with you to end polio, to honor her mother and her memory,” he said and added that Pakistan has come a long way from 1994, when the polio eradication campaign was first launched formally.
The President thanked the Health Ministry, the Rotary International, international community, the partner agencies, workers of the health ministries in all provinces, and all those who were taking part in this program for their efforts.
The president wished them success in their task and said polio was a crippling disease.
“It continues to threaten opportunities for our children. Unfortunately Pakistan is among the half dozen countries in the world which is still not completely polio free.” He said the number of cases was more than 30,000, which have come down to 117 in 2008 and to 62 cases so far this year.
“Yet we are not completely polio free. Our aim is to make Pakistan completely polio free. We aim that no child lives in the fear of being crippled for life. For this we also need to produce polio vaccines within the country,” he added.
The President recalled that during his last visit to China the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in manufacture of vaccines.
Zardari hoped that this cooperation will also be extended to manufacture of polio vaccines in Pakistan for nation wide anti polio programs.
The President regretted that unfortunately the extremists and militants opposed the vaccination of children against polio.
“They even killed doctors who administered polio drops, on the ground that it was foreign funded and that it made the Muslim children infertile.”
“We have fought against this mindset, and will not permit militants to deprive our children of basic health care,” the president said.
He said child health was the collective responsibility of all and he was pleased to learn that sectors outside the health were also playing a positive role.
“We need this spirit of partnership in the country at this critical time,” he said.
The President thanked the international donors and partners and said their support has been a great help in fighting polio.
“We look forward to their continued support. Let us pledge that no child who should get polio drops, will be missed out,” he said.
He said Aseefa will continue the Polio Eradication Initiative, launched on the April 27, 1994 by her mother, the then Prime Minister, with the mission to protect country’s children from the scourge of a debilitating disease.
The message of Aseefa Bhutto Zardari was read out on the occasion that said, “I feel a special responsibility towards eradicating polio from the country. I was the first ever Pakistani child to have been administered polio drops by my mother Shaheed Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, when the anti polio campaign was formally launched on April 27, 1994 under her watch.”
She assured to carry forward the mission of her mother in carrying the message of hope to the people.
“Together we will end polio in her honour and in her memory,” she said.
She appreciated Health Ministry and the Rotary International for its material and financial support to polio eradication programs in the country over the past decade.
She said, “Polio is a preventable and we must do everything possible to make Pakistan polio free and save our children from this crippling disease.”
“I wish I could personally participate in the launching of anti polio campaign today. Although I could not personally be present due to my studies I wish to assure you that I will be with you in this noble task,” she said.
Health Minister Ijaz Hussain Jhakrani said the government had taken steps to eradicate polio at all levels including setting up of polio vaccination points at Pak Afghan border, active involvement of religious leaders in campaign and recruitment of more female vaccinators and volunteers.
He said, “With the appointment of Aseefa Bhutto Zardari as Ambassador for Polio Eradication, we are entering a new era in our fight against polio.”
President Rotary Foundation Robert Scott appreciated that appointment of Aseefa Bhutto as ambassador for polio eradication would help her continue her mother’s vision for the entire country.
He appreciated that Pakistan has made significant progress in its fight against polio with cases brought down.
President Asif Ali Zardari also administered polio vaccination drops to a few children.
A commemorative stamp by Pakistan Postal Office was also issued to mark Aseefa Bhutto’s appointment as ambassador for polio eradication.