Officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan have vowed to increase coordination in an effort to eradicate the crippling polio virus from the border regions of the two neighbouring countries.
The pledge was made at a meeting between Coordinator Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) Dr Syed Saifur Rehman and Dr Rashid from the Public Health Services of Afghanistan’s Spin Boldak area. Officials from Unicef, WHO and N-Stop were also present.
“The officials from both sides agreed to administer polio drops to all the children crossing the Pak-Afghan border,” Dr Rehman said. According to a rough estimate, more than 7,000 children cross the Pak-Afghan border in Chaman every month.
Read: Crippling disease: Islamabad ‘gets back’ its polio-free status
“Our target is to improve the performance of permanent transit points (PTP) along with the Pak-Afghan border,” he added. “There are many houses or some villages which come under the jurisdiction of both the countries. Which is why, I have requested the officials from the other side of the border to help in vaccinating those children who are missed.”
The meeting also deliberated to improve coordination between the polio teams in the border regions. Afghan District Health Officer (DHO) Dr Rashid said, “It will help in addressing the issue of vaccine shortage.”
The meeting was told that there were 11 acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) cases detected in the Spin Boldak area of Afghanistan while 10 were discarded in 2015. The situation is relatively better in Afghanistan than Pakistan.
Afghanistan could not launch sub national immunisation day during the month of June due to the deteriorating law and order situation.
Both countries will share the data and improve cross-border mapping, Dr Rehman said.
The EOC said he was not satisfied with the performance of the PTPs deployed in Pakistani border areas. “I have issued clear directives to improve the performance of the officials on the Pakistan side which was not up to the mark,” he told reporters after the meeting.
He went on to say that it is necessary to improve the performance of permanent transit points to control the outbreak of the virus.
Read: Polio eradication: Pakistan welcomes Iran’s offer of free vaccines
According to EOC Balochistan, there were only three fresh cases detected in Afghanistan in contrast to 25 in Pakistan during the year of 2015.
The next meeting of Pak-Afghan bordering officials will take place on August 3 near the Friendship Gate.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2015.