Islamabad: Pakistan on Monday launched a countrywide anti-polio campaign to vaccinate about 39.6 million children under the age of five in the country as the government appealed to the people for their support to eradicate the crippling disease.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Health Services Zafar Mirza said the government is committed to reach every child with the polio vaccine.

According to the World Health Organisation, Pakistan is one of the three countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio is still endemic.

“We have critically reviewed our performance during last campaign and worked with provincial and district teams for an even better preparedness for this nationwide vaccination drive,” he said.

Mirza appealed to the people to join hands with the government to eradicate the polio virus from the country.

Over 2,65,000 polio workers will go door-to-door to administer polio drops to about 39.6 million children, officials said.

The initiative has come days after Pakistan confirmed 5 new polio cases, taking the number of those affected by the disease this year to 17.

Last year, 144 polio cases were reported nationwide, far higher than 12 in 2018 and eight in 2017.

Prime Minister Khan had in December said that it was a “matter of shame” that Pakistan was among the countries where polio was still prevalent.

Attempts to eradicate the disease have been seriously hampered by deadly targeting of vaccination teams in recent years by militants, who oppose the drives, claiming the polio drops cause infertility.

Attacks on immunisation teams have claimed nearly 70 lives since December 2012.

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