BHURBAN: Despite a substantial decrease in the case of poliovirus by almost 78 per cent this year, Pakistan still has a long way to go in completely eradicating the disease.
“We have made rapid progress but recognise that polio interruption and eradication is a zero sum game and we are not yet at zero,” said the Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication, Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq,during a recent meeting of the National Polio Management Team (NPMT).
The team, along with district commissioners and deputy commissioners met in Bhurban earlier in the week to review progress of the National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) on polio eradication and to chalk out the programme’s critical steps for the rest of 2016.
The meeting, held just a week before the October Sub-National Immunisation Days (SNIDs), was seen as a critical opportunity for the programme to re-focus efforts to deliver the highest quality campaign, reaching every child under five.
In her opening remarks, Senator Farooq thanked the district officials for their support to lead and enable the programme.
“Your involvement with your teams has been critical in achieving our success to date – your strong leadership and drive for results is clearly showing us how collective efforts do make a difference for all the children of Pakistan.”
Focusing on sustaining gains made in the last year, Senator Farooq cautioned “Our core strategy elaborated in NEAP is to root out the virus in the reservoirs, detect and react aggressively to outbreaks and to maintain population immunity levels elsewhere in the country remains the correct one.”
The virus has proved to be a constant and resilient foe for Pakistan. So far in 2016, 15 cases have been reported and positive environmental samples continue to be seen in the country. This, however, is down from the 54 cases reported last year and the high of 306 reported in 2014.
“There has been no case in the core reservoirs since February, which remains to be the silver lining; and as we continue to enhance the sensitivity of our surveillance system, we expect more of the virus to be revealed” National Coordinator of Emergency Operations Centre Dr Rana Safdar said.
“Bad news now is ultimately good news for us on the road to interruption and ultimately certification – provided we identify and effectively address all the issues in our way and until we address them, we will not succeed,” Dr Safdar said.
The meeting reaffirmed its commitment to eradicating polio and identified remaining gaps, setting out measures to overcome any obstacles in the coming weeks and months to stop transmission and sustain interruption of the virus.
The NPMT consists of coordinators of national and provincial Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs), managers of Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) from the four provinces and Fata and leads of partner agencies.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2016.