Lahore (PR) - Participants belonging to various media organizations on Thursday pledged to support polio eradication efforts as the fight against virus enters the last phase.

The workshop was organized by the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) of Punjab. Speaking on the occasion Coordinator of the EOC Dr Munir Ahmad apprised the participants about new beginnings, direction, strategies as well as action plans to eradicate polio in 2017-18.

Citing the National Emergency Action Plan for 2017-18, he informed the participants that polio programme has come a long way forward in which the virus no longer endangers children and families.

“The performance improvements achieved since the beginning of 2015 are clearly visible in the declining number of wild poliovirus (WPV) cases: from 306 cases in 2014, to 54 in 2015, and 20 in 2016. As of October 2017, the total number of wild polio cases reported in Pakistan stands at five”, he said adding only “one child in Punjab this year unfortunately has been affected by the polio virus”.

He disclosed that the polio programme has taken a paradigm shift and now prioritized a target of “no missed children” in immunization campaigns over coverage rates.

“Key to improvements in this area was a focus on motivation and performance of vaccinators and other frontline workers—including greater emphasis on training, timely payment and supportive supervision”, the EOC coordinator said.

Explaining the challenges pertinent to Punjab, he said the high frequency of movement to and from Punjab posed greatest challenge to the chidlren. The rapid movement between provinces risks jeopardizing the polio-free status of previously unaffected areas in Punjab, the EOC coordinator added.  “To counter the challenge Punjab has done a complete review of its high-risk and mobile population strategy.  Previously the focus has remained on the delivery of vaccines at permanent transit points (PTPs).

This year the programme will ensure that vulnerable populations like nomads, seasonal and economic migrants, and agricultural migrant labourers are systematically mapped and incorporated in micro plans, and vaccinated”, he pledged.  During the session the media managers recommended setting up a platform to rapidly share information as well as data generated during polio campaigns.