Islamabad - Defying tall claims of the government, the Independent Monitoring Board report urged Pakistan to strengthen its workforce capacity for eradication of poliovirus in the country.

The IMB report of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), titled “Every Hiding Place” was launched on Thursday. The IMB provides an independent assessment of the progress being made by the GPEI in the detection and interruption of polio transmission globally.

The report said that strong political support was necessary to strengthen the workforce capacity. The report mentioned that limited effectiveness of health workers in Islamabad was identified as a problem and a decision to appoint more effective staff had been taken. “It is an example where identifying a root cause of weak performance and taking decisive action to address it can be pivotal in achieving a breakthrough”, the report said.

The report noted that in spite of a very low number of paralytic cases, the poliovirus was still being found in many parts of the country in the environment. According to report , the main concern was the ongoing circulation of poliovirus in Quetta, Karachi and wider Sindh as well as the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi where the virus has found a new home outside the core polio reservoirs.

Taking an overview of the epidemiological situation in Pakistan , the report said that transmission of the poliovirus had been interrupted at every site but never at the same time. The IMB emphasised continuing action by the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to work cooperatively to secure strong cross-border arrangements for polio vaccination as both countries are in one epidemiological block of poliovirus.

The report noted that the current programme performance was yet to reach the level necessary to clear wild poliovirus out of either of these two endemic countries, calling for a transformative solution for an inaccessible large, high-risk mobile population, potentially moving poliovirus across and between the two countries.

The quality of micro planning and micro censuses is vital when there is such large-scale population movement, the IMB underlined. “While the polio programmes in both Pakistan and Afghanistan are focusing very high-risk districts, the high-risk mobile populations enter and leave key reservoir areas and the major population flows across the borders,” the report said.

The IMB was convened in November 2010 at the request of the World Health Assembly to monitor and guide the progress of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s 2010-2012 Strategic Plan. The IMB releases quarterly reports to provide an honest and transparent external assessment of the progress being made toward polio eradication.