PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has issued a ‘final’ warning to the UN agencies helping it in anti-polio programme to improve performance for the eradication of the acute viral disease from Peshawar, one of the main reservoirs of polio virus in the country.

During the last two months, the deputy commissioner of Peshawar, who is responsible for polio eradication in the district, has issued at least three letters expressing deep concern about the performance of the staff deployed by the WHO and Unicef for vaccination.

With the situation continuing to haunt the government, coordinator of the Emergency Operations Centre retired Captain Kamran Ahmad Afridi issued a letter on March 14 describing the current efforts of polio eradication undesirable and warning UN employee Dr Mohammad Johar Khan, the divisional focal person for Peshawar, and members of the district polio control room (DPCR), over poor performance.

Issues ‘final’ warning for elimination of virus from Peshawar

“The warning may be considered as the final opportunity to sit together immediately and start acting as one team with the sole objective of eradicating polio virus,” he said.

In the letter, the EOC coordinator declared uninterrupted polio virus transmission a source of great concern for the district and provincial leadership and Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and pointed to a letter written by the Peshawar DC on March 11 expressing concern about a high number of vaccination missing children in every campaign, lack of accountability of poorly performing vaccinators, and the role of supervisor protecting non-performers.

He outlined the complaints against the UN employees saying there were capacity gaps in the workforce in the area, union council and district level and the supervisors of the vaccination programme hadn’t identified training needs which are the integral part of the programme.

Mr Afridi said lack of proactive initiatives, problem solving, crisis management and complacencies trickling down from top to the lowest cadre and instead of acting as one team as sole objective of polio eradication, the supervisors were mostly involved in proving each other wrong and shifting responsibilities to others.

He said multiple channels of communications from district to UC level and upwards, resulting in conflict statements and reports which had turned the DPCR ineffective and unable as institutional arrangement for effective and efficient implementation and decision making.

The EOC coordinator pointed out that unwarranted communications are being made with the national level of the programme and bypassing the hierarchies and channel of reporting was clear indication of lack of coordination and trust on the DPCR.

He complained that the minutes and decisions of the important meetings weren’t shared with the EOC.

“Peshawar seems more of a management than technical issue. Lack of interest of the technical partners and any serious and workable technical inputs for improving the performance has frustrated the DC. The scenario is utterly undesirable and is of grave concern,” he said.

Mr Afridi warned that if those issues remained unresolved, they would cause more embarrassment besides inability to interrupt polio virus in Peshawar district.

Copies of the letter titled “Warning: Improvement in management model of the Peshawar polio programme’ were also sent to the chiefs of the polio section of WHO and Unicef, and provincial and federal governments’ officials associated with polio vaccination.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2019

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