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May 21, 2014

A cellular network partners up to fight polio in Pakistan

Asher Ali

Rotary's Pakistan National PolioPlus Committee’s objective is to intensify interventions for polio eradication in the country and specifically focus in on areas with high-risks of polio transmission. In these identified high-risk areas, we are working on developing and facilitating a monitoring system through cell phones that will allow us to reach more children. This innovative step to reach children under five years of age will be executed through an implementing partner, the Mother & Neonatal Child Health, a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation program, the government of Sindh and Telenor Pakistan, cellular network company.

This intervention will benefit the Mother & Neonatal Child Health program by directly connecting community based workers with health service centers. They will receive 552 cell phones and with teamwork, they can cover many children missed by polio vaccination campaigns in their catchment areas and expand routine immunizations.

The first step of the cell phone project was to procure 552 cell phones. The funds for this matching grant came from The Rotary Foundation and we are thankful to Rotary Club Baroda Metro, India and Rotary Club Karachi Kolachi, Pakistan for sponsoring this grant.

The Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony for the cell phone project was on January 27, 2014 at Serena Hotel, Islamabad. Telenor Pakistan hosted the ceremony. The ceremony headed by Past District Governor Aziz Memon, National Chair Pakistan National Polio Plus Committee and Mr. Irfan Wahab Khan, Chief Marketing Officer and Vice President of Telnor Pakistan.

Memon gave details on a polio outbreak in the country and how Rotary has worked toward a polio-free future for Pakistan. He highlighted the significance of the cell phone project’s ability to help eradicate polio by covering a wide range of children. He said the project will initially cover five districts in Sindh with the collaboration of Maternal Neonatal and Child Health Project and the government of Sindh. Upon successful results, it may be replicated in other polio high risk districts around the country.

Commenting on the initiative, Khan said that Telenor Pakistan is proud to be a part of this great initiative by Rotary Pakistan and he commended them for this gesture. Community based projects like these have far reaching impact on our coming generations and make the most of people that we have at our disposal. He said Telenor Pakistan is pleased to participate in the noble cause of eradication of polio from Pakistan. He said that it is their social responsibility to facilitate the project and help it reach its objectives. Telenor offered very competitive packages for the community based workers to provide humanitarian services. He added that Telenor Pakistan will provide quality services throughout its tenure.

Khan thanked all Rotarians and Memon for their bold step to cover a wider population under five years of age in Pakistan in protection against polio.

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