Islamabad - Appreciating the turn around, the meeting of International Monitoring Board (IMB) on Polio that concluded on Thursday in Abu Dhabi observed that Pakistan’s programme had been put on track and with current momentum Pakistan was on track to interrupt virus transmission by May 2016.  

The IMB interacted with the health officials involved with the polio eradication programmes and discussed the situation in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Board appreciated that Nigeria has reported no case since last nine months but drew attention towards northern part of the country where besides vaccination, the Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance was also of suboptimal quality. According to Pakistani officials, concerns were raised over poor quality campaigns in Afghanistan especially areas bordering with Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa because of which three cases were exported to Pakistan, 2 in Killa Abdullah and 1 in Khyber.

Appreciating the turn around, the international monitors who hold meeting twice in a year to review the global progress on polio eradication, observed that Pakistan’s programme has been put on track since the establishment of Emergency Operation Centres. Terming the National EOC as main driving force, the IMB linked programme’s turn around with the leadership provided by the National Coordinator.

Appreciating role of the front line workers, timely payment to polio workers was emphasised. Highlighting need to further build the capacity of provincial EOCs, IMB felt confident that with current momentum, Pakistan was on track to interrupt virus transmission by May 2016, informed officials.

The international monitors observed that Pakistan deserved kudos for affecting a major turnaround in the polio situation, the health ministry statement maintained. “Political commitment, ingenuity and a determination to change the course of events, has enabled Pakistan convert challenges into opportunities was the observation of members of the Independent Monitoring,” it said.

Pakistan has gained access in all inaccessible areas of FATA and other parts of the country. Chair of the Independent Monitoring Board Sir Liam Donaldson made specific mention of the creative responses by the country to challenges like mass exodus of population from North Waziristan, by conducting successful large scale transit vaccinations, introduction of Injectable polio campaigns and systematic and thorough engagement of Ulema. Innovations like health camps and involvement of female community volunteers to improve access into resistant communities was also recognised by IMB members.

“Pakistan has come out of very difficult situation,” remarked IMB members. Support of the armed forces and a well thought out security strategy were critical to resumption of campaigns in security compromised areas.

Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar and Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication represented Pakistan in the crucial meeting along with Coordinator of National Emergency Operation Centre, Provincial Secretaries of Health and Secretary Law and Order FATA.  Going forward the IMB recommended expended and tailored approaches and strategies specific to different communities.

The committee of international monitors also gave a nod to Pakistan’s strategic shift in targeting missed children through new and innovative strategies.  

“The IMB meeting gave us confidence that programme is on track to finish the job but absolutely there is no place for complacency,” remarked Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar, National Coordinator National Emergency Operations Centre. “We still have a long way to go and need to maintain current momentum at all levels and further improve in areas such as Peshawar, Karachi, Quetta block and central Pakistan,” he added.