Top international body appreciates Pakistan’s Polio Performance

November 11, 2015

 Islamabad, the 11th November, 2015:- Top international watchdog of the Global Polio Eradication effort, the independent monitoring board, in its report released on Wednesday,   appreciated Pakistan’s Polio programme saying that the management and governance processes within the programme have improved since the last IMB report, a functioning Emergency Operations Centre is now in place, shortcomings in data are being addressed, health camps are operational in different parts of the country, front-line workers are more trained and access has improved substantially reducing the number of children in inaccessible areas from over half a million to 35,000. Mentioning of fewer wild polio virus cases this year, the IMB particularly noticed Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) where cases are down by over 90%. One innovation that is proving effective is the Continuous Community Protected Volunteers involving locally recruited staff on continuous basis within their own communities and promoting health practices beyond polio vaccination’ the report states.

The prestigious top body monitoring polio efforts worldwide had met on the 5th & 6th of October in London for a detailed review of the performance of countries harbouring the poliovirus including Pakistan. The board comprises of world’s top public health specialist. In its recommendations, the IMB has stressed the need to quickly close the serious immunity gaps in isolated pockets in the country. ‘The challenge for Pakistan’s programme, that is much better coordinated and led than it was a year ago, is to stop the “conveyor belt” of transmission in Peshawar and surrounding large geographical areas’ says the IMB report.

Saira Afzal Tarar, the Minister for National Health Services welcomed the report and said she was  encouraged by the findings and attributed the recent programme gains to the  exemplary political commitment at federal and provincial levels, effective coordination among all stakeholders and the administrative support at district levels to solve operational problems and remove obstacles. She said the Government had worked with resolute commitment in coordination with the armed forces and all stakeholders to ensure a safe environment for the polio workers and resolve the accessibility issue in specific areas.

 

Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication, Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq stated that the Pakistan programme now has all the ingredients required to finish the job in areas pointed out by the IMB. Firstly, the country has concerned and well-informed parents who accept vaccine each time it is offered and know that it is the only way to fully protect their children from permanent paralysis. Secondly, it has a dedicated network of frontline health workers who enjoy the acceptance and trust of their communities. These workers are supported by an informed and supportive medical fraternity, civil society, religious leadership and media. Crucially there now exists an enabling security architecture which supports access to practically all children in Pakistan and ensures safety for frontline workers. All those now contributing to polio eradication are now supported by a dedicated network of Emergency Operation Centres at National and Provincial levels

As a result of the coordinated efforts of all of our society, it is the virus that is now under severe pressure said Muhammad Ayub Shaikh, Secretary National Health Services. We have successfully cornered it in just three remaining sanctuaries – the Khyber-Peshawar corridor, Karachi and the Quetta block where we are continuously challenged by pockets of under-immunised children. To finally finish this time, we must sustain our gains and must not allow these sanctuaries to sustain polio transmission across Pakistan by enhancing our programme performance.

 

‘Our ultimate success lies in our ability to remain focused on our strategy while being flexible enough to make changes when needed at the local level’ said Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, Coordinator at the National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication. Whilst the programme by no means under-estimates the remaining challenges, we will not be diverted from our goal of reaching zero case; he said.

The latest report of the Independent Monitoring Board, - the body that evaluates the implementation of global polio eradication efforts; has acknowledged the fact that the number of Polio cases so far in 2015 globally is at its lowest in history. The report titled “Now the Time for Peak Performance” says that, the world has never been better positioned to eradicate polio.