Appreciating the progress achieved so far, the Prime Minister’s Focus Group for Polio Eradication urged all stakeholders to gear up efforts for the final push against crippling virus. The group comprising of the federal Secretary Health, provincial Chief Secretaries, Additional Chief Secretary FATA, Director General National Crisis Management Cell, Representative from the GHQ, Director General Health and the Coordinator National Emergency Operation Centre held its first meeting at PM Office today under chairmanship of the Secretary to Prime Minister. The Minister of State for National Health Services and Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio eradication participated in the first meeting by special invitation.

Six high quality campaigns between now and May 2016 hold the key to wipe off the virus from the country stated Saira Afzal Tararr, the Minister of State for National Health Services. Stressing adequate security and accountability across the board, she emphasized the need to have focused and concerted efforts to quickly address the remaining challenges that were hampering the programme to reach and vaccinate each child during every campaign.

The Prime Minister considers Polio eradication as one of his Government’s topmost priorities along with economy and energy, stated Secretary to the Prime Minister. Most recently at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta, the Prime Minister had also reiterated his commitment to ensure that each and every child is reached and vaccinated.  It’s time now to finish the job and the federal Government was committed to provide whatever it takes to reach Zero Polio.

Secretary National Health Services, Muhammad Ayub Shaikh apprised the forum of Ministry’s efforts for timely availability of resources for the high priority national initiative. The PC-I at the cost of USD 337 million has been recommended by CDWP on 2nd December 2015 for approval of ECNEC. He appreciated the role of national and provincial emergency operation centres in identifying and addressing remaining gaps on real time basis.

Earlier Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, PM’s Focal Person or Polio Eradication gave an overview of the current situation along with some of the remaining challenges. The virus has been successfully confined to last three remaining sanctuaries of Khyber-Peshawar conveyer belt, Quetta block and Karachi which sadly continue to serve as “virus nurseries” sustaining and re-seeding the virus infection across the country. Independent monitoring clearly indicates significant quality improvements all across however, we are yet to achieve the eradication level performance in problematic pockets of Khyber-Peshawar and Karachi from where virus has been consistently challenging us, she stated.

The Focus Group had in-depth discussion on issues hampering programme progress at desired pace province by province tabled by the Coordinator of the National Emergency Operation Centre. Whereas Punjab successfully maintained its good performance, the campaign quality enhancement in Balochistan, KP and FATA during September, October and November were specially appreciated.  Besides maintaining momentum, the forum agreed to identify and vaccinate pockets of suboptimal immunity by focusing on microplan updating, appropriate team selection, advance security assessment and deployment backed up by strict implementation of accountability and performance management framework across the board.

Karachi was flagged as the programme’s major concern at this point. The Chief Secretary Sindh informed the Focus Group about recently constituted Karachi Task Force under the Commissioner. He also updated participants on additional security measures taken by the Sindh Government and assured that it would not be allowed to hamper campaign quality in future activities. All Chief Secretaries also assured of their personal oversight during six remaining campaigns in the current low transmission season. It was also unanimously agreed to exercise Zero tolerance for poor performance all across to achieve the final goal of virus interruption during 2016 as outlined in National Emergency Action Plan approved by the Prime Minister.