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QUETTA: Technical Advisory Group (TAG) Chairperson Dr Jean Marc Oliver has said that Balochistan is moving in the right direction for the eradication of polio from the province.

“We are close to disrupting the virus transmission in Balochistan. The province has shown remarkable progress since September 2015 which is commendable, but there are some gaps that need to be filled to ensure we reach every child,” he said during a meeting at the Emergency Operations Centre on Monday.

“We need to closely monitor the vaccination campaign at the Afghan refugee camps,” he said. He lauded the recruitment of permanent local community health workers in high-risk zones under the community protected vaccination programme. Currently, there are over 1,200 such permanent teams working in the most high-risk areas of Balochistan, the meeting was told.

Health Secretary Muhammad Umer Baloch, EOC Balochistan Coordinator Dr Saifur Rehman, Dr Jawahir Habib of Unicef Polio Lead, Dr Rehmatullah of the Expanded Programme for Immunisation, WHO’s Dr Salah Haithami and others attended the meeting.

Dr Rehman, who is coordinator of EOC Balochistan, briefed the meeting on special interventions by the government and other stakeholders to prevent the virus from being transmitted in the province.

These include door-to-door vaccinations and health camps. He lauded the commitment of the frontline workers and deputy commissioners who form the backbone of the programme and congratulated the province for the successful implementation of the injectable polio vaccination campaign in the Quetta block.

“We successfully conducted the IPV campaign in three districts which was a difficult task,” said Dr Rehman, lauding the EOC Balochistan team and other partners for their collective efforts. “Monitoring and proper planning is being done to ensure the efficacy of the campaign. Local people are being hired and UCs’ issues are being resolved by them,” he explained, adding that steps were being taken to establish health camps in high-risk districts.

Health Secretary Umar Baloch said that they were not far from achieving the objective of a polio-free province.

Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2016