Technical Advisory Group commends Pakistan for progress in polio eradication efforts
Islamabad, 1 April 2017--The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on polio eradication commended the Government of Pakistan for the progress in the polio situation made over the past nine months. The Group met on 30-31 March 2017 in Islamabad to assess programme progress, opportunities, and remaining challenges towards achieving the goal of stopping transmission of the poliovirus.
Since the last TAG, the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) has made tremendous progress towards polio eradication. Progress has been a direct result of government commitment and support at every level, strengthened programme performance and broad community acceptance of the polio vaccine. Consequently, the number of children paralysed by the wild poliovirus has dropped from 306 2014 to 54 in 2015to 20 in 2016 and only 2 in 2017 so far.
The TAG noted that the current polio epidemiology and the programme momentum remains the best we have ever seen in Pakistan. In order to reach the goal of zero cases, the TAG urged the programme to maintain high-level performance across the country, with a special focus on decreasing the number of missed children in the core reservoir areas and children on the move, while further strengthening the good coordination with Afghanistan, which constitutes a single epidemiological block with Pakistan.
Chair of the TAG Jean-Marc Olivé said: “Pakistan’s progress towards reaching zero cases since the last TAG meeting in June 2016 has been remarkable. It is important to recognize that this progress would not have been possible without Government’s sustained commitment and oversight at every level. I am confident that we are in a good position to finish the job and I encourage everyone to continue the great work they have been doing in these past months.”
A high level delegation of the Government of Pakistan and key partner agencies to the Polio Eradication Initiative in Pakistan, including Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination (NHSRC), Mrs. Saira Afzal Tarar, Secretary NHSRC Ayub Sheikh, Regional Director of WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region, Dr Mahmoud Fikri, and Ms. Jean Gough, Regional Director for UNICEF South Asia joined the closing session of the two-day TAG in Islamabad. Senior representatives from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary International, Centre for Disease Control and other key donors and partners also joined the meeting.
The Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication, Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq said: “I am very proud to see how far this programme has come. Our programme is on track. We have seen progress at every level. The TAG has given us reassurance that what we are doing, it is working. I am confident that with this level of commitment, we will finish polio in Pakistan very soon. Together we can do it.”
Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, Coordinator of the National Emergency Operation Centre for polio eradication reflected that “the TAG assessment reassures us about the appropriateness of our strategies”. Commending the efforts of Pakistan’s Sehat Muhafiz front line workers, he urged “the all government approach to be accelerated with the support of other stakeholders, particularly parents to finally wipe the virus from Pakistan”.
Regional Director of WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office, Dr Mahmoud Fikri renewed World Health Organization’s commitment to the Government of Pakistan and said that “no stone will be left unturned to support the country in its relentless efforts to achieve polio eradication. I am very encouraged to see the progress that Pakistan has achieved and I am confident we will soon finish polio forever.”
Voicing TAG’s appreciation for the leadership and commitment of the Government of Pakistan to the polio programme, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia Ms. Jean Gough said: “I am confident that Pakistan is close from achieving the magical goal of zero.”
Concluding the meeting Mr. Ayub Sheikh, Secretary at the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination thanked TAG members and partners, “We are thankful to the TAG members for sharing their expertise and knowledge with our teams to achieve the massive turn around in polio eradication program in Pakistan. We will continue to proactively detect and defeat the polio virus through our committed teams, front line workers and engaged partners.”
Note for the editor:
The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) was established to review progress towards polio eradication in specific countries, assess implementation of previous TAG recommendations, discuss planned activities and issue recommendations to address constraints facing national programmes in achieving their targets. TAG meetings are attended by country-specific TAG members, national representatives and partner organizations, both international and regional.
The TAG meets twice a year in Pakistan and Afghanistan to review progress and provide expert advice on the final road to reaching zero. The meeting brought together polio eradication experts from the government of Pakistan, lead implementing partners including, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), senior representatives from across the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI): Rotary International, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the US Centres for Disease Control and representatives of key donors and donor countries.
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