ISLAMABAD: Chair of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) lauded Pakistan’s efforts in its fight against polio and remarked that the country’s progress since the group’s last meeting has been remarkable.
Jean-Marc Olivé was speaking during the two-day TAG meeting during which public health experts on polio eradication met on March 30-31 in Islamabad. The meeting was held to assess the programme’s progress in addition to formulating a strategy to achieve the goal of stopping the transmission of the virus.
Stressing the need for better coordination with Afghanistan, members of the group also called upon health experts to focus on decreasing the number of missed children.
Since the last TAG, the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) has made tremendous progress towards polio eradication, members of the meeting acknowledged. Progress was made as the direct result of the government’s commitment and support at all levels, strengthening of programme performance and broad community acceptance of the anti-polio vaccine.
The two-day meeting also discussed that the number of children paralysed by the virus dropped from 306 in 2014 to 54 in 2015, 20 in 2016 and just two so far this year.
The group also noted that the current polio epidemiology and the programme’s momentum remained the best that they had ever seen in Pakistan.
Chair of the TAG Jean-Marc Olivé said: “Pakistan’s progress towards reaching zero cases since the last TAG meeting in June 2016 has been remarkable.” According to him, it was important to recognise that this progress would not have been possible without the government’s sustained commitment and oversight at all levels.
The TAG chair said: “I am confident that we are in a good position to finish the job and I encourage everyone to continue the great work they have been doing in these past months.”
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq said: “I am very proud to see how far this programme has come. Our programme is on track. We have seen progress at every level.” The senator reiterated that she was confident that with the current level of commitment, Pakistan would be able to eliminate polio very soon.
The Coordinator of the National Emergency Operation Centre for polio eradication, Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar, later said: “TAG’s assessment reassures us about the appropriateness of our strategies”.
Regional Director of WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office Dr Mahmoud Fikri reiterated the World Health Organisation’s commitment to the Pakistan. Fikri said: “No stone will be left unturned to support the country in its relentless efforts to achieve polio eradication.”
Furthermore, UNICEF’s Regional Director for South Asia Jean Gough remarked: “I am confident that Pakistan is close to achieving the magical goal of zero.”
Meanwhile, Secretary to the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Ayub Sheikh thanked TAG members and partners.
The two-day meeting was also attended by a high level delegation of the government of Pakistan and key partner agencies to the Polio Eradication Initiative in Pakistan.