Dr Ala Alwan, the regional director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), will be visiting Pakistan for a day today (Tuesday) to discuss the global health agency’s support for the technical needs of the government in the current polio emergency and weigh its response to security threats.
In a statement issued on Monday, the agency said that Dr Alwan will attend a meeting of the National Task Force on Polio Eradication, which will be chaired by Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. The objectives of the meeting are to examine the status of polio eradication in the country in the context of operations and security, and also to issue recommendations for the next period.
According to sources from the provincial polio eradication programme, the visit is exclusively focused on the situation in Karachi. According to the official, the consecutive attacks on staff members in Karachi during the campaign and the resultant closure of the main office raised alarm bells for the future of operations in the city.
Pakistan has reported 27 cases of polio this year, compared to 71 at this time last year. This progress has taken place following a massive emergency effort from the government and international and national partners, including staff surges, stronger accountability for polio eradication efforts at Union Council-level, systematic engagement of local and religious leadership and ownership of the initiative at national and provincial levels. However, the progress is fragile: cases are slowly rising, particularly in key areas such as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata, and sewage samples shows that the polio virus continues to circulate widely.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2012.