ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan’s ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ stance on polio eradication has started to bear fruits. Children under 10 have been vaccinated at the border crossings despite the challenges.
Officials of both the countries successfully participated in each other’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG) meetings on polio as observers.
TAG members have urged the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration to optimally facilitate national polio eradication programmes of both the countries in vaccinating repatriating populations.
“Pakistan and Afghanistan are expecting the UNHCR to facilitate their polio teams in vaccinating all eligible children at the designated camps,” said National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) Coordinator Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar.
While talking to The Express Tribune, Dr Safdar, who also led Pakistani delegation during a visit to Afghanistan, said both the countries have affirmed their commitment to work jointly and closely to address the remaining challenges arising in polio eradication campaign during 2017.
TAG revealed that more efforts are required to curtail transmission of polio virus in Helmand and Kandahar provinces of Afghanistan and Killa Abdullah and Pishin districts of Pakistan, he said.
““The anti-polio drives will continue to be held on the same dates in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he said. “The governments of both the countries have agreed upon sharing details of repatriating populations for advance preparation in their respective countries.”
He further said emergency operation centres have been established at national and regional levels in Afghanistan to improve coordination among both the government and its partners.
NEOC in Kabul was inaugurated on April 3, and the first meeting was hosted on Pak-Afghan coordination.
“Inaccessibility of pockets in Afghanistan both for vaccination and campaign monitoring were flagged as major concerns by TAG,” he said.
It was also observed that to enhance benefits from this practice, good national and regional level coordination needed to be further trickled down in the form of regular interactions and sharing of campaign information at district level.
Teams of both the countries felt the need to support each other in eradicating the virus from the remaining areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said.
Afghanistan minister for public health, presidential focal person for polio eradication, and high officials of World Health Organisation and UNICEF also attended the TAG meeting in Kabul.