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Sunday July 14, 2024

Polio programme chief Dr Shahzad Baig resigns due to 'personal reasons'

Dr Baig's resignation comes after severe criticism related to spread of polio across Pakistan

By M. Waqar Bhatti
May 31, 2024
Dr Shahzad Baig is seen speaking in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme
Dr Shahzad Baig is seen speaking in this still taken from a video. — YouTube/Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme

Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme’s national coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig has resigned from the post due to "personal reasons".

The former anti-polio programme chief confirmed the development day after the government decided to replace him with a bureaucrat for the position.

Dr Baig was recently featured among the world's 100 leaders in the field of health in Time magazine's coveted annual list.

The former national coordinator's resignation comes after he faced severe criticism for the spread of polio in the country with the virus confirmed in at least 153 environmental samples across 39 districts.

So far, three children have been affected by the poliovirus in Pakistan.

Earlier today, government officials told The News that a bureaucrat will lead the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) for polio after being perturbed by the resurgence of poliovirus across Pakistan in the last two years.

"Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has decided to replace the incumbent National Coordinator of the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), Dr Shahzad Baig, with a government official of BPS 21 or above to lead the operational side of polio eradication initiative following resurgence of poliovirus in recent years,” an official of the National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination (NHSR&C) told the publication.

Meanwhile, the official maintained that Dr Baig could continue as a technical advisor for the polio programme at his discretion, but administrative decisions would now be made by an official appointed by the government.

According to the official, the wild poliovirus is spreading rapidly in Pakistan. In 2023, 126 environmental samples tested positive for poliovirus in 28 districts.

The official mentioned that a notification regarding the appointment of a new national coordinator is expected soon, claiming that even the partner organisations, which previously supported Dr Baig, have agreed on his replacement with a government official.

"Actually, Dr Shahzad Baig is not a Government of Pakistan employee, which led to coordination issues that derailed the polio programme. Provincial coordinators and other senior government officials had complaints about him, and some even sent letters to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif against him," the official further claimed.