Islamabad: 28 June 2016 - The Technical Advisory Group met in Islamabad today to deliberate on the progressive efforts to stop transmission of the polio virus in Pakistan.

TAG members listened to detailed analyses by the federal and provincial Emergency Operations Centre Coordinators on the progress made, opportunities, and the remaining challenges towards achieving the ultimate goal of eradication.

The Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication, Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, briefed the meeting of the implementation of the National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) in the past year. “We as partners are now deeply intertwined as we push towards Zero. We will succeed or fail together, but failure is not an option. The Government of Pakistan will remain committed to achieving our collective goal of polio eradication and thanks all our partners for their technical, financial and political support as we approach a significant milestone in global health,” Ms Farooq said.

In his opening remarks Mr. Muhammad Ayub Sheikh, Secretary, Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination said ”substantial progress has been made this year evidenced by a continued sharp decline in recorded polio cases and increasing number of negative environmental samples across Pakistan. This progress has been built on a very solid foundation of overwhelming political commitment and support, strengthened programme performance and broad community acceptance. We remain on track to interrupt transmission and are fully aware of the remaining challenges and the appropriate strategies and plans to overcome these obstacles.” Mr Sheikh added.

The TAG meeting brought together polio eradication experts from the government of Pakistan, lead implementing partners including, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), senior representatives from across the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and representatives of key donor countries.

The National Coordinator of Emergency Operations Centre, Dr Rana Safdar, emphasized that the programme seeks to build on the momentum of the last year as it enters what is hoped to be the last low transmission season. He further outlined the overriding priorities for the National Emergency Action Plan for 2016-2017 through ensuring all children are vaccinated especially the most young in our most high risk districts, detection of every signal of the polio virus and any emerging immunity or performance gaps; and to respond rapidly, aggressively and comprehensively to every significant event with implications for interruption of the wild polio virus.

WHO Representative to Pakistan Michel Thieren said “It is imperative that all efforts be made, not only at technical and operational levels, but also at political and administrative levels, to redress those pockets of failure, which will seriously hamper our capacity to win this last battle.”

UNICEF Representative to Pakistan, Angela Kearney, said “UNICEF remains fully committed to play its role as a GPEI partner under the leadership of the Government of Pakistan, and that all efforts will be made to support front-line workers, and their immediate supervisors, who have knocked on doors and vaccinated almost 300 million children during the past campaign season.  But there remain areas where we can and must do better – the effective deployment of local, female, well-trained, supervised and motivated staff on the doorstep targeting zero missed children remains the critical determinant of success,” Ms Kearney said.

Chair of the International PolioPlus Committee, Michael K. McGovern, said Rotary International remains committed in the pursuit of the major public health milestone for both Pakistan and the world.

“We have been involved in the polio eradication mission for a long time. We will continue to work with the Government of Pakistan and all partners to see that polio transmission stops in Pakistan this year,” he added.

The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) was established to review progress towards polio eradication in specific countries, assess implementation of previous TAG recommendations, discuss planned activities and issue recommendations to address constraints facing national programmes in achieving their targets. TAG meetings are attended by country-specific TAG members, national representatives and partner organizations, both international and regional.