Friday December 08, 2023

Bill Gates hails Pakistan’s innovation in controlling COVID-19, polio

"NEOC uses state-of-the-art informational tools developed by GPEI to track polio so no child is ever paralysed by it again," says Bill Gates

By Web Desk
February 24, 2022
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Photo: file
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Photo: file   

Hailing Pakistan’s efforts against COVID-19 and polio, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates Wednesday said that the country’s "innovative" command centres, the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) and the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), "blew him away".

Gates made these remarks in his blog following his day-long visit to Pakistan last week during which he also held talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan. 

He wrote: "Last week I also went to Pakistan, where I visited two of the country’s innovative command centres for fighting diseases, the NEOC for polio eradication and the NCOC for COVID."

"The NEOC uses state-of-the-art informational tools developed by Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) to track polio so that no child is ever paralysed by it again," he added.

Meanwhile, regarding NCOC, Gates said that the centre has applied resources and lessons learned from the polio programme — including data analysis, vaccine campaign planning, and community engagement— to coordinate Pakistan’s response to COVID.

During his visit, Gates had attended a meeting of the National Task Force on Polio Eradication, where he noted that despite COVID-19 restrictions, Pakistan has performed "amazingly" in eradicating polio.

During the NCOC session, Gates and his delegation were apprised about the NCOC's role and methodology, its achievements since the start of the pandemic, the recent COVID-19 situation across Pakistan and various restrictions imposed by the forums to control disease spread and ensure public safety and well being.

Sharing his experience in his blog, he wrote: "At the NEOC, we pored over a wall of screens that displayed an up-to-the-minute summary of immunisation rates and areas where children have not been reached with the vaccine."

"The health officials I talked to in Pakistan told me that the polio programme’s infrastructure was invaluable once COVID-hit.

"By setting its priorities based on the needs at the time, Pakistan was able to expand and redirect health infrastructure that had been supported by the global community — the national helpline call centre, communication systems, and networks of religious leaders and community influencers — to help protect people during the pandemic," he concluded.

Considering this as a major achievement, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr Faisal Sultan shared Pakistan's bit from Gates blog on his Twitter handle, saying "high praise from a global leader in tech, innovation and philanthropy - Bill Gates."

"It shows how investments in health systems pay off," he wrote.