Minister for National Health Services review of the country's Progress towards Polio eradication


Islamabad, the 23rd June, 2016 Minister, National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar chaired a high level meeting in the Ministry to review the progress of Pakistan's Polio eradication programme during the just concluded low transmission season. Besides Director General Dr. Assad Hafeez, and other senior officers of the Ministry, the meeting was also attended by Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, National Coordinator, Dr. Salah Haithemi, WHO team lead, Mr. Aidan Oleary, UNICEF team lead, Dr. Tim Peterson, Deputy Director Gates Foundation and Brig. Kamal Soomro, Coordinator N-STOP.

Dr. Safdar, Coordinator of the National Emergency Operation Centre briefed the participants on program progress and also shared remaining obstacles and opportunities. The support to the 'One Team led by the Government' working under network of emergency operation centres provided by the Government functionaries as well as the Global partnership at all levels was unprecedented and one major factor behind the turnaround seen in 2015 and 2016, he said. Sharing continued decline in case count and proportion of positive environmental samples, the Coordinator paid rich tribute to the country team and frontline workers for vaccinating 280 million children during nine campaign conducted in the low transmission season. The successful IPV-OPV campaigns in targeted high risk areas of Karachi, Khyber Peshawar and Quetta block helped in quick immunity boosting of approximately 3 million vulnerable children. The community based vaccination and health camps helped in enhanced community ownership of the programme interventions.

The meeting was also apprised of the remaining challenges faced by the programme in Karachi, north Sindh and southern KP. An alert was also raised regarding campaign quality issues in Afghanistan areas bordering FATA, Khyberpakhtunkhwa and Quetta block. Addressing programmatic gaps in these areas during next few weeks would determine the success of the programme to interrupt Polio virus during 2016, the national coordinator said.

Saira Afzal Tarar Appreciated the role of the federal and provincial Governments as well as partners and termed interruption of Polio virus in 2016 as the top most priority of the Ministry. The Minister was particularly appreciative of the role of the Secretary NHSRC, EOC coordinators, Chief Secretary Balochistan, Additional Chief Secretary FATA as well as the Commissioners of Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta for working with a missionary zeal for this national cause. She congratulated program and partnership on huge success of the community based vaccination initiative in various provinces and urged its expansion in all core reservoir areas. The Minister however, showed her concern on suboptimal campaign quality observed during last low transmission seasons in north Sindh and Islamabad. Our goal of virus interruption is insight and no laxity can be tolerated to miss this historic opportunity, she remarked.

She said, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two last remaining countries with Polio. Pakistan has reported 12 wild Polio cases in 2016 against 28 reported in 2015 till same date. The proportion of positive environmental samples in all time down to around 10% with chronically positive sites of Gadap Town, Karachi and Shaheen Muslim Town, Peshawar turning negative after long time. With these positive indications at the start of the low transmission season, Pakistan should be able to make it in 2016 through concerted efforts and support from everyone.

(Sajid Hussain Shah)

PRO to Minister / PM’s Focal Person