LAHORE: The Punjab health managers called an important meeting here on Tuesday in wake of a crucial conference planned in Islamabad on polio, and shared latest countrywide statistics on the disease.
The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) of the World Health Organisation is going to convene a crucial meeting on polio in Islamabad on Thursday (tomorrow).
World-renowned experts from 30 countries, global partners, health bodies, donor agencies, the UN and Unicef are participating in this high-level meeting besides senior officials from all four provinces, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), Azad and Jammu Kashmir.
Health Secretary Jawad Rafique Malik and Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) Director Dr Munir Ahmad will represent Punjab. The TAG will discuss the current situation of polio in Pakistan and share expertise and strategies to steer the country out of this emerging health crisis.
An official told Dawn the outcome of the meeting here was that Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan played a decisive role in bringing down the number of polio cases.
“In less than a year, polio cases in Fata alone have dropped to just seven in 2015 from 179 during the same period in 2014, showing tremendous progress in eradication of the crippling disease in the area, which has been the prime source of transmission of the virus to the rest of the country,” the official said.
According to official figures, Pakistan had 306 polio cases in 2014 with Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa accounting for most of them. However, there were only 24 countrywide cases so far in 2015 with just seven from Fata. Not just these, the number of positive environmental samples from high risk areas was also on a big plunge.
He said polio had become an international embarrassment for Pakistan due to poor access to children in North and South Waziristan. After the military operation the displacement of population had turned out to be a game-changer for polio. An estimated 300,000 children under five years of age from North and South Waziristan were accessed for the vaccine. Consequently, the best global practices of polio vaccines in oral as well as injectable forms were used.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only countries battling to eradicate polio, the official said.
Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2015