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Friday May 24, 2024

Authorities committed to eradicating poliovirus after its detection in sewage samples of Quetta, Karachi

Poliovirus in Quetta was detected in the environmental sample collected on March 26, 2024, from the ‘Surpul’ environmental sample collection site

By M. Waqar Bhatti
April 20, 2024
A researcher collects samples from a sewerage waterway in this image. — Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme website/File
A researcher collects samples from a sewerage waterway in this image. — Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme website/File

ISLAMABAD: Authorities assured donors partner organisations of eradicating polio from Pakistan very soon as poliovirus was found in the environmental samples of Quetta and Keamari district of Karachi again.

The poliovirus in Quetta was detected in the environmental sample collected on March 26, 2024 from the ‘Surpul’ environmental sample collection site, which is the 13th positive sample from district Quetta this year. The previous 12 positive samples were collected on January 2, January 15 (n = 2), January 16, February 20 (n = 2), February 21 (n = 2) March 4, March 16, March 18 and March 19, 2024.

The polio eradication initiative officials said the isolated virus is classified as YB3A cluster and 99.89 percent genetically linked to the virus detected in an environmental sample in Chaman on October 16, 2023.

In Karachi, poliovirus was also detected in the sewage in Keamari district, officials said, adding that so far, poliovirus has been found in the environmental samples of 31 districts across Pakistan this year.

On the other hand, the National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication organised a briefing for the donors and partner organisations supporting the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) to apprise them of the progress of polio eradication efforts in the country.

Coordinator to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Regulations and Coordination Dr Malik Mukhtar Ahmad Bharath was the chief guest, while Federal Health Secretary Nadeem Mahboob, country representatives of WHO and Unicef, Trustee Rotary Foundation and Pakistan National Polio Plus Committee Chairman Aziz Memon, and representatives from donor agencies were in attendance. In his address, Dr Malik Mukhtar Ahmad Bharath said that Pakistan is committed to fulfilling its obligations under global public health and eradicating polio to make the dream of a polio-free world a reality.

Highlighting the polio programme’s progress, he said: “With the support of our valued partners and donors, we are running the largest polio eradication programme in the world backed by an extensive poliovirus surveillance network and modern lab. Yet we continue to detect cases, which means we still have a lot more work to do to ensure that every child is protected.”

“The strong commitment and dedication of our partner agencies and donors have been crucial in bringing us this close to polio eradication. I hope that this support continues as Pakistan positions itself to interrupt poliovirus transmission this year.”

Addressing the gathering, Health Secretary Nadeem Mahboob said that the health ministry is providing full support to the polio programme as it endeavours to reach every child with the vaccine.

“I extend my profound gratitude to our donors and partner agencies for their commitment to the wellbeing of Pakistan’s children and support for strengthening health systems,” he said.

NEOC Coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig gave a briefing on the current epidemiological situation, progress, challenges, and needs.

He highlighted that in the coming months, the programme will focus on intensifying vaccination rounds, strengthening vaccination at the border and reaching communities with health services to create goodwill and trust.

Dr Baig facilitated a discussion with the guests with the aim of strengthening collaborative efforts in the mission of polio eradication.

Representatives from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partner agencies, including WHO and Unicef, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary International, US-CDC, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Canadian High Commission, Asian Development Bank, Australian High Commission, French Development Bank, US-AID, KFW, and Qatar Charity graced the occasion and reaffirmed their commitment to supporting Pakistan in its journey to eradicate polio. Speaking on behalf of Unicef representative in Pakistan Abdullah Fadil, Melissa Corkum, the Unicef National Polio Team Lead, said: “We have made clear progress towards stopping polio. But even one polio case is a public health crisis and threatens to undo our years of hard work. If there was ever a time where we need to re-ignite our collective efforts, to be strong and united as partners, it is now.”

Dr Luo Dapeng, WHO Representative in Pakistan said: “An investment in polio eradication makes a huge difference to children not just in Pakistan, but the world. As we move closer to polio eradication in Pakistan, it is critical that the ongoing support of partner and donor agencies continues so that the gains we have made can remain in place and we cross the finish line.”