Polio eradication TAG asks Pakistan to improve performance

Islamabad – The Technical Advisory Group for eradication of polio on Saturday urged Pakistan to improve performance for complete eradication of wild poliovirus in the core reservoirs of Southern region, said an official.

The TAG held a meeting here to review the nine-month progress made by the Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination (NHSRC) to achieve polio eradication. Chairman TAG Jean Marc Olive headed his team, while Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq represented Pakistan.

The TAG in its recommendations noted that transmission of the wild poliovirus persisted in hotspots, core reservoirs of Karachi and across Northern-Southern corridors. It urged for continued focus on improving the overall performance and decreasing the number of children being missed in the core reservoir areas and identifying and addressing the residual risks and acting swiftly in response to reach the goal of zero cases.

The chairman TAG said that the group would advise Pakistan’s programme on improving planning and implementation of its National Emergency Action Plan for eradication of polio from the country. He said that the TAG reviewed the latest epidemiology and programme performance thoroughly, adding that the group’s directions would help Pakistan filling the gaps in anti-polio campaigns. It commended Pakistan’s response to recommendations of the TAG meeting held in March and also endorsed the one-team-one-family approach of the Emergency Operation Centre teams working towards the goal of polio eradication.

The TAG recognised the progress made in reduction of polio cases to an all-time low of five because of the high-level of government commitment.

Provincial leadership of the programme presented the TAG with a comprehensive 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 poliovirus. Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq said on the occasion that the country needed to overcome remaining obstacles in eradication of polio. She said that Pakistan’s commitment was steadfast as witnessed by substantial progress made in the direction in 2017. With overwhelming political commitment and support, we remain on track to interrupt transmission of polio virus, she added.

She said that Pakistan’s Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) had made considerable progress owing to commitment of the government and support at every level, strengthened programme performance and broad community acceptance of the polio vaccine.

“The number of children paralysed by the wild poliovirus has dropped from 306 in 2014 to 54 in 2015 to 20 in 2016 and only five so far in 2017 and the immunity gaps continue to decline,”she  said.

However, in pockets of the country, any unvaccinated children remain vulnerable, she added.

The two-day meeting drew polio experts from lead implementation partners including World Health Organisation (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.

“Polio eradication has given us the tools and is the beginning of our efforts to reach the most-vulnerable children with equitable access to health care.

 The best way to honour the commitment of our frontline health workers who come from the same underserved communities is to ensure that we finish the job and build a better future for their children”, concluded Senator Ayesha.

The TAG was established to review progress towards polio eradication in specific countries, assess implementation of the previous TAG recommendations, discuss planned activities and issue recommendations to address constraints facing national programmes in achieving their targets.

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