Islamabad-The Technical Advisory Group at conclusion of its meeting on Monday appreciated the progress made in Pakistan over the past nine months in eradicating polio from the country.

The TAG recognised the progress made in the reduction of cases to an all-time low of five because of the high level of government commitment and support of the law enforcement agencies in ensuring safety of the vaccination teams.

It also commended Pakistan’s response to recommendations of the last TAG held in March and endorsed the one-team, one-family approach of the Emergency Operation Centre. The TAG also noted that transmission of the wild polio virus persisted in hotspots, core reservoirs of Karachi and across Northern Southern corridors.

For Pakistan to reach the goal of zero cases, the TAG urged for continued focus on improving the performance and decreasing the number of children being missed in the core reservoir areas and identifying and addressing residual risks and acting swiftly in response.

Provincial leadership of the programme presented the TAG with a picture of the epidemiological situation across the country, indicating the progress made in each province as well as the remaining gaps to end transmission of the polio virus.

Presenting the findings and recommendations at the conclusion of the meeting, the TAG Chair Jean Marc Olive said, “The TAG reviewed the latest epidemiology and programme performance thoroughly.

At this critical juncture, the outcome of the TAG will help spotlight the remaining gaps and advise Pakistan’s programme on improving the planning and implementation of its National Emergency Action Plan”.

Prime Ministers Focal Person for Polio Eradication Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq said on the occasion, “The key to interruption is for the programme to be fully aware of the remaining challenges and obstacles we need to overcome. Pakistan’s commitment is steadfast as witnessed by the substantial progress made this year. Built on a solid foundation of overwhelming political commitment and support, we remain on track to interrupt transmission”.

Since the last TAG meeting, the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) made considerable progress owing to the high commitment of the government and support at every level, strengthened programme performance and broad community acceptance of the polio vaccine. Consequently, case numbers have come to the lowest they have ever been. The number of children paralysed by the wild polio virus dropped from 306 in 2014 to 54 in 2015 to twenty in 2016 and only five so far in 2017 and the immunity gaps continue to decline.

The two-day meeting drew polio experts from lead implementation partners, including World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), leadership and teams from the four provinces, senior representatives from across the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and key donors.

The TAG was established to review progress towards polio eradication in specific countries, assess implementation of previous TAG recommendations, discuss planned activities and issue recommendations to address constraints facing national programmes in achieving their targets. The TAG meetings are attended by country-specific TAG members, national representatives and partner organisations, both international and regional.

The TAG meets twice a year in Pakistan and Afghanistan to review progress and provide expert advice on the final road to reaching zero.