KP called major barrier to efforts for polio eradication

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Ikram Junaidi

ISLAMABAD: The World Health Organisation’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on Polio Eradication has observed that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a major barrier to polio eradication efforts in Pakistan, terming the situation caused by the parallel polio structure in the province ‘crises’.

According to the recommendations of TAG, a copy of which is available with Dawn, KP has been highlighted as the core reason behind the rise in polio cases in Pakistan.

The apex evaluation body stated: “KP Emergency Operations Centre is not aligned with the federal EOC, as roles and responsibilities of KP EOC are unclear.”

TAG recommended a complete reset of KP’s polio programme, observing that the provincial polio programme has failed to identify roles and responsibilities with “two simultaneous but different strategic approaches being used with distant action plans”.

WHO’s group recommends complete reset of polio programme

As KP has reported 44 of the total 58 cases reported so far this year in the country, the advisory group acknowledged that Federally Administered Tribal Areas’ (Fata) merger with KP and fake finger markings are major challenges, but observed that the communication strategies being used by the KP polio programme were “not fit for the purpose”.

TAG on polio eradication is a group of globally acclaimed experts. They work on behalf of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative for assessments and as advisory to polio endemic countries. TAG meets after every six months.

Unlike KP, TAG has appreciated the government of Balochistan for its continued efforts. It coupled its future success with success in “Killa Abdullah”. The “One-Team Approach” at provincial emergency operation is exemplary with well-defined problems, recognition of frontline workers demoralisation and weak routine immunisation remains of paramount importance as stated by TAG.

About Punjab, TAG noted that while the province showed good progress over the past couple of months, it had showed signs of deterioration in the beginning of the year, which was worrisome for the global polio eradication fraternity.

Sindh getting ‘heavy poliovirus from KP’

TAG observed that Sindh was receiving heavy polio virus from KP and that the KP government needed to put its own house in order. It advised the Sindh government to come up with proactive barriers in the shape of better immunisation campaigns to protect itself from virus circulation.

When contacted, Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Babar Bin Atta said the federal government was encouraged by TAG’s recommendations. “We are delighted to see that TAG recommendations are almost 100 per cent with the vision and direction of a faulty polio programme that we inherited last year,” he claimed, adding that the confidence of the national polio programme had grown manifold.

“My confidence has grown as for the first time we are being advised on measures that will literally transform the polio programme from a disease-control project to a 100 per cent virus eradication programme,” he remarked.

He claimed that many of the recommendations were either on the verge of being implemented or in the pipeline for implementation before the massive campaign planned for November.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2019

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