Saturday October 16, 2021

Oversight board praises polio eradication efforts

June 13, 2021

LAHORE : Polio Oversight Board (POB) members have hailed the exemplary ownership of the government which has helped polio programme rebound from the brink of collapse, but also signaled that the toughest mile in eradication of the crippling disease is yet to come.

At an operational level, oversight of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is the responsibility of the Polio Oversight Board (POB). The POB receives and reviews input from the various advisory and monitoring bodies, and operational information from the Strategy Committee. The POB’s directives are implemented through the Strategy Committee, and its various management groups.

The POB wrapped up its two-day hectic visit on Saturday in which they met with the senior leadership of the province including the health minister, chief secretary, health secretary and polio programme officials. POB members who were part of the delegation visiting Lahore included its chairman from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Dr Christopher Elias and Deputy Chairman Michael Galway.

The National Emergency Operations Centre Coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig and national team leads of the BMGF, WHO and Unicef accompanied the mission.

Head of the polio programme in Punjab Ms Sundas Irshad played a key role in organising all the POB delegation’s meetings and briefings from key state officials.

“Success of Pakistan in eradication of the disease is praiseworthy but we cannot be complacent and let gains slip away”, said the POB officials suggesting that the good quality of campaign needs to be sustained to ensure that the virus is eliminated.

“Reaching every child with polio vaccine is critical at this stage. This will be the toughest of the jobs as these children could be located on the most difficult of places; on multi-storey heavily populated buildings, in the remotest of areas in deserts or in slums”, the POB members suggested in their meetings with the senior government officials.

On the last day of the mission on Saturday, the board members visited Gulshan-e-Ravi environmental site. The board members were informed that the site is located in a densely populated area, and it covers 37 square kilometre area.

POB discussed the venues for expansion of targeted environmental sampling in smaller geographical area with higher High-Risk Mobile Population (HRMP). “The polio programme is working to increase the environmental sites in Lahore in order to detect and respond to the threat of the virus on time”, the board members were informed.

“High-risk populations which are scattered across several union councils drain into the site”, the polio programme officials informed the board members. The board members supported the suggestion to increase the environmental sites saying the ‘suggestion could be considered and endorsed”.