PESHAWAR: The government has expressed concerns over the ignorance of polio officers, deployed by WHO and Unicef, about their respective areas in Peshawar district and has advised them to improve their performance for early eradication of the crippling ailment.

The concerns were shown by the deputy commissioner of Peshawar after several of the officers failed in an assessment test conducted on February 6 to ascertain the level of their information in the union councils where they have been working to pave the way for smooth-sailing of the polio immunisation campaigns.

The deputy commissioner, who under the national emergency plan for polio eradication is spearheading the campaign, dispatched a letter to coordinator of the emergency operations centre (EOC) on February 11 to convey displeasure over lack of knowledge of the UN staffers about their areas where they were supposed to create demand for oral polio vaccine.

The letter entitled “Advice to Improve Performance”, has named the WHO polio eradication officers (PEOs) and Unicef district health communication support officers (DHCSOs), who failed the test. He said that he was concerned about their performance which was a matter of utter disappointment.

Peshawar DC advises them to improve performance for eradication of poliovirus

“The result showed that your general information about your assigned union councils was 17 per cent, the knowledge about performance of union council monitors in extended catch-up drive was also 17 per cent while your knowledge about performance of female vaccinators in extended catch-up was 33 per cent,” said the deputy commissioner.

He said that to his sheer dissatisfaction, the result clearly indicated either they were not able to retain the esteemed positions or they were taking the national cause in very casual manner.

“Through this communiqué, I want to convey my displeasure and advise you to mend your ways and start taking polio duty seriously,” said the letter. It also reminded that polio eradication was top most priority no stone would be left unturned to make Peshawar polio-free.

According to the deputy commissioner, the environmental poliovirus sample has been testing positive for the past 16 months and efforts will be accelerated to eliminate the virus.

He has also requested the EOC’s coordinator to share the information regarding the performance assessment of PEOs and DHCSOs done by the respective UN agencies besides holding an open discussion to gauge the utility of the existing monitoring mechanism of polio campaign and find a way forward by taking into account different options.

The deputy commissioner said that he was repeatedly emphasising to strengthen monitoring mechanism to ensure that the frontline workers performed their duty with due care and diligence.

“For the purpose, I myself have started to monitor the performance of polio field staff since December and identified loopholes in the monitoring mechanism. I categorically kept on showing my displeasure on our “WhatsApp group” just to shake you from deep slumber,” he deplored.

Sources said that it had been first time that a process of accountability of UN staff was initiated. In December last year, the deputy commissioner warned the UN staff to eliminate poliovirus from water in Peshawar or face action. Last week, he showed concerns over transfer of UN staff outside Peshawar without the knowledge of district administration.

The UN had hired about 3,000 female community health workers and 250 union council polio officers including DHSCOs and UC communication officers and UC polio eradication officers under a changed strategy to make Peshawar free of poliovirus by conducting full-scale campaign in all 97 union councils including the 18 high-risk ones.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2019

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