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‘Pakistan committed to ending polio despite Covid-19’

National

July 1, 2020

Islamabad: The Pakistan Polio Programme is determined to deal with the dual challenge of wild poliovirus and circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus amid the most exceptional social and economic upheaval occasioned by the worst pandemic in a century. While 2019 proved to be a challenging year for the programme, the October 2019 recommendations of International Monitoring Board are on course with implementation.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr. Zafar Mirza extended the above assurance while addressing the virtual meeting of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) on Polio Eradication here on Tuesday. Dr. Mirza thanked the forum and acknowledged its guidance to Pakistan’s polio programme.

The impact of Covid-19 on our economy and on communities is unprecedented. Following the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) guidelines, like many other countries, all Polio SIA activities were suspended in March as Covid-19 cases started rising,” Dr. Zafar told the IMB leadership.

“The national team has re-organised the One Team approach at the national and provincial levels; we now have a strong one team that interacts effectively with a sense of collective responsibility. I took this responsibility myself and am thankful for the encouraging response from our political leadership. We all have witnessed the level of engagement across all parties starting from December 2019,” Dr. Zafar remarked.

The SAPM further added that polio programme is running effective media campaigns on the print and electronic media.

He shared that December 2019 and February 2020 nationwide polio campaigns went very well. He further added having reviewed the micro-planning process, restructured the staffing, simplified the tools, and trained frontline workers in areas such as interpersonal communication. “The frontline workers have done a remarkable job conveying a positive message to vulnerable communities,” he said.

Dr. Zafar added, “We look forward to IMB guidance to further crystalize our efforts and reiterate our commitment to leave no stone unturned to ensure a paralysis-free future for our children and that of the world.”

Dr. Rana Safdar, National Coordinator of the Pakistan Polio Programme, shared details of upcoming polio campaigns. He appreciated the frontline workers for conveying positive messages to vulnerable communities the Covid-19 pandemic, and said, they are very hopeful to carry out well planned polio campaigns in the future. “We look forward to IMB guidance for further strengthening of the programme,” he stated.