March 10, 2016: A High level inter-country coordination meeting was convened among the leading officials of the Pakistan and Afghanistan polio eradication programs at Kabul.  The key objectives of the meeting were to review the current situation of polio eradication programs in both the countries as well as to assess the current coordination mechanisms among the two countries at the national and the sub-national levels and agree on means to further strengthen the collaborative work. The Pakistan delegation was led by the National Coordinator of the Polio Emergency Operation Center Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar while the Afghan delegation was led by the Director General Ministry of Public Health.

In addition to the situation of the toe country programs, the meeting also thoroughly reviewed the status of implementation of the recommendations of the Technical Advisory Groups on Polio Eradication in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Independent Monitoring Board on Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations. All these advisory bodies made significant emphasis on enhancing the Pakistan – Afghanistan coordination, since the bordering areas of the two countries are acting as common polio reservoirs constituting the last battle field against the disease that is at the verge of being eradicated.

From operational perspective, the meeting analyzed in depth the polio program performance in the bordering districts and tribal agencies as well as the vaccination activities at the border posts, particularly the Friendship Gate at the Killa Abdulla – Kandhar border and Torkham at the Khyber Agency – Nangarhar border. The meeting agreed to extend the target age group for the border crossing populations from five years to ten years, at all  the inter-country border vaccination posts. The officials also agreed to take specific measures to enhance the anti-polio campaigns’ quality in the bordering areas and among the populations on the move, since they are at the highest risk for polio and possible means for to and fro transmission of poliovirus.

The delegation heads reiterated on behalf of the National Governments, the resolve to stop polio transmission in 2016, and act as one polio eradication team for this purpose. The provincial and regional level participants worked on detailed sub-national plans, identifying the remaining gaps in the anti-polio campaigns in the bordering areas and identified joint interventions to address those. These plans will be further followed up during the upcoming provincial/regional and district level meetings over the next weeks to months.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the last two polio endemic globally and responsible for all the polio cases during the last six months on the global scenario. The global community looks forward to both the countries to step forward and cross the success line on behalf of the children of the world. Polio Eradication is the largest ever community based public health program, very close to success with final battle in Pakistan and Afghanistan.