ISLAMABAD: On this year’s World Polio Day, the National Islamic Advisory Group for Polio Eradication (NIAG) has paid tribute to all of Pakistan’s valiant ‘Sehat Muhafiz’ who are setting an inspiring example of dedication on the frontlines in the fight against polio. Pakistan stands today on the brink of ending the scourge of polio, and ‘Sehat Muhafiz’ are leading the charge.
“What all these 250,000 men and women have in common is commitment. By vaccinating every child and ensuring that no child is missed, they are building community immunity—a critical step on the road to eradication,” said Dr. Sohail Hassan, Director of the Dawah Academy at International Islamic University and Chairman of NIAG.
Maulana Hanif Jalandhry, general secretary of Wifaq-Ul-Madarris and president of NIAG Core Group said, “With courage and perseverance, our Sehat Muhafiz supported by more than 1,000 religious support persons to travel the length and breadth of the country to educate their communities, spread awareness about the compliance of polio vaccine with Islamic Sharia and vaccinate children to make polio in Pakistan history.”
Every year on the World Polio Day, the world is reminded that a disease that has paralyzed and killed children for thousands of years still remains among us. While most of the world is polio-free, Pakistan, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, remain the last three countries where the poliovirus still circulates, threatening the wellbeing and future of children.
Only a few years ago, polio eradication in Pakistan was hindered due to misperceptions and lack of safe access to children by vaccination teams. The Pakistan polio programme has come a long way. The progress achieved since the beginning of 2015 is now visible in the declining number of wild poliovirus cases. From 306 in 2014, the number of cases declined to 54 in 2015, and 20 in 2016. So far in 2017, the total number of cases reported stands at five, compared to 16 this time last year.
NIAG reiterated its full endorsement of the oral polio vaccine. “We call on all parents to vaccinate their children against this debilitating but preventable disease,” said NAIG member and Chairman of the Rotary Ulama Committee Haji Hanif Tayyab.
Guided by the irrefutable words of the Almighty Allah in Surrah Al-Anaam verse 140: “They are losers who foolishly have slain their children without knowledge.” Maulana Sami Ul Haq, NIAG member and Head of Jamia Haqqania Akora Khattak, said, “It is every individual’s duty to protect themselves and their communities from diseases. Believing in rumors and depriving our children of their right to good health is not only sinful, but also believing in falsehood.”
Although there is no cure for polio, the virus can be prevented and eliminated through immunization. As long as the purpose of vaccination is the welfare of people and the substance used to make vaccines was uncontaminated and not forbidden, it is therefore “acceptable to Sharia” – or Islamic law. All parents are called on to step forward and allow their children under the age of five to be vaccinated against polio every time the vaccine is offered.
To fulfill our national promise of a polio-free Pakistan to future generations, NIAG has called upon all learned religious leaders to continue enlightening communities about the rights of children to the best start in life and protection against polio and all other childhood diseases.
“Crippled children lead to a crippled Muslim Ummah. May Allah protect our children from all harm and bring them up to be healthy and productive members of the Ummah they deserve to be,” said NIAG Chairman Dr. Sohail Hassan.