Statement by His Excellency Mr. Asif Ali Zardari President of Pakistan

Excellencies,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you all on behalf of the 180 million people of Pakistan.

I am proud to be here today.

Eradicating polio is a national priority for Pakistan. It also is a personal mission for my family.

Pakistan began its quest to end polio when my wife, the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, immunized our child Aseefa in the first national polio campaign in my country 18 years ago.

Im very pleased Aseefa is here today to join the rest of the world community in making a solemn pledge to make Pakistan and the world polio-free.

The road to eradication has not been easy. Two years ago, we saw unprecedented floods.

Security issues have prevented us from reaching every child in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

The immunization program has been entangled in international politics.

But we are now deploying innovative resources to address these challenges.

We are doing our best to get all stakeholders to own polio eradication.

I have instructed our defense and law enforcing agencies to cooperate.

I also see a role for humanitarian agencies to help de-politicize polio and get all stakeholders on board.

Im pleased with the recent success to reach more than 30,000 children in the Tirah valley, which had long remained inaccessible, with vaccines to prevent polio, measles and diphtheria.

In tribal areas, we are working with tribal leaders and religious clerics so everyone understands immunization is a blessing, and a shared responsibility.

Though we have very densely populated urban areas, in all major cities, we are mapping out every street corner.

We are mobilizing local leaders and engaging with parents to make sure campaigns are a success.

My government is significantly increasing its financial and resource commitment to polio eradication through the National Emergency Action Plan in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, WHO, UNICEF, JICA and Rotary International.

We are making real progress. Polio cases over the last year are down by two-thirds.

Government leadership and accountability is in place, down to the grassroots level.

Our trusted tribal elders and religious leaders are mobilized. And we have the funding needed to do the job well.

Insha Allah, I feel confident Pakistan will join the company of all the other nations where children do not suffer from polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

I thank you.