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ISLAMABAD: The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for Polio has increased a number of targets for Pakistan to eliminate the crippling disease by the end of the year.

These included an enhancement in the quality of polio campaigns, reduction in the number of missed children, tracing children affected with polio-like diseases and the stability in the leadership of the polio programme.

The board also called for a peak performance from all stakeholders to eradicate the virus. It warned that the virus would not be eliminated unless aggressive efforts were made.

The IMB, which works on behalf of the international donor agencies and issues reports regarding the performance of countries after every six months, held its meeting in the United Kingdom on July 20 and 21. The meeting was chaired by IMB Chairman Sir Liam Donaldson. Delegations from Afghanistan and Nigeria also presented their cases. The board takes three to four weeks to compile and release a report.

The IMB recognised major improvements in the performance of the Pakistan polio eradication programme during the last three years as there was a 59pc reduction in the polio cases compared to the previous year. Besides, the number of missed children also decreased. However, the board said the goal of interrupting the transmission may not be achieved in 2016 if more intensified efforts were not made.

An official of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), requesting not to be identified, told Dawn that the board had set a number of targets for Pakistan.

“It has been suggested that special focus should be given to Karachi, northern Sindh and the Khyber block. Moreover, the board expressed concerns over changes in the leadership of the polio programme, especially in Sindh, because it can affect the country’s goal to eradicate the virus by the end of the year. It has been suggested that the leadership of the polio programme should not be changed till May 2017.”

The official said in the past Pakistan had a target to cover 90pc children during the vaccination campaigns. “We achieved that target but now the target has been increased to 95pc. The results of the lot quality assurance sampling (LQAS) have also been increased from 80pc to 90pc,” he said.

LQAS is a verification survey held after each polio campaign by an independent or third-party team to check whether children of the area had been vaccinated or not. About 300 houses are checked during the survey and if it is confirmed that 95pc of the children have been vaccinated the LQAS is considered successful.

“The target for the missed children is also increased and now we have to make efforts to further decrease the number of missed children to ensure the optimum level of performance,” he said.

“The IMB has increased our surveillance target due to which we have to find more polio-like cases in children. Whenever a child is paralysed, there can be many reasons for it but we have to check them for the polio.”

Under the global standard, two cases of paralysis per 100,000 population are reported but for Pakistan the target has been increased to three cases of paralysis per 100,000 population. For around 50 sensitive union councils, the target has been increased to six per 100,000 population, he said.

Secretary Ministry of NHS Ayub Sheikh told Dawn that all the targets given by the IMB would be achieved.

“We are already on track and doing well so we believe that polio will be eradicated by the end of the year,” he said.

Minister for NHS Saira Afzal Tarar said Pakistan was committed to addressing the remaining challenges and ending polio transmission in 2016.

The National Emergency Action Plan 2016-17, which is driving the programme operations, risk assessment and management, oversight and accountability, lays out an ambitious plan to tackle the remaining gaps, she said.

It may be noted that in November 2012, the IMB recommended that travel restrictions should be imposed on Pakistan and finally its recommendations were implemented on May 5, 2014.

Meanwhile, a statement issued by World Health Organisation (WHO) said the emergency committee under the international health regulations 2005 regarding the international spread of poliovirus at its 10th meeting held on August 11 applauded the strong progress being made in Pakistan with consistent evidence of reduced transmission in 2016.

As a result of these efforts, there had been no international spread of wild poliovirus between Pakistan and Afghanistan after the previous meeting, it added.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2016


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