On Thursday, the Health Ministry announced that social media site Facebook would be helping Pakistan in it’s fight against polio disease.

What’s the context?

This announcement came after officials blamed anti-vaccine content posted last year on Facebook as a reason for the rise in polio cases.

Pakistan is one of the only three countries where polio has not yet been fully eradicated. After years-long efforts, there began a drop in the number of cases in 2016. By 2018, only 12 cases had been recorded, however, in 2019 the number of cases soared to 136.

Officials quickly tied the surge to a slew of fake news reports and videos claiming many children had been killed by the vaccine that garnered thousands of views and shares on social media.

They further called on the social media site to remove harmful anti-vaccine content from the site claiming it was jeopardising eradication initiatives and putting the lives of polio workers at risk.

So what’s going on?

This week a delegation from the company visited Islamabad and reaffirmed their commitment to the campaign, a statement said.

“We stand behind the national and global efforts to create a polio-free world and will continue to support these efforts,” Rafael Frankel, a Facebook regional director, was quoted as saying in a statement released by the health ministry.

Dr Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan on health, highlighted the importance of communicating correct health information online and stressed “the need to counter harmful content on social media”.

Facebook did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

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