Ministry says more focus be placed on 40 polio-endemic UCs

Updated January 07, 2020

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Pakistan is the first country collaborating with DCP3 as part of the national strategy to achieve universal health coverage. — AFP/File
Pakistan is the first country collaborating with DCP3 as part of the national strategy to achieve universal health coverage. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan needs to focus more on 40 super high-risk polio-endemic union councils and planning for an integrated package of service delivery.

This was stated by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza on Monday at a consultative workshop to review the polio situation, organised by the Ministry of National Health Services in collaboration with the Disease Control Priorities Third Edition (DCP3) Secretariat, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Unicef, World Bank and World Health Organisation.

“Out of the 40 high-risk union councils, 18 are in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 14 in Balochistan and eight in Karachi,” he said, according to an official statement issued by the health ministry.

Dr Mirza emphasised having an integrated approach to ensure better availability of services to people while tackling the polio epidemic. He said that the development of Universal Health Coverage Benefit Package of Pakistan provided an excellent opportunity to strengthen and improve services at the high-risk union councils.

PM aide says vaccination to a child within 72 hours of birth being planned

DCP3 Secretariat representative Professor Ala Alwan said that “the aim of the DCP3 programme is to use updated evidence in developing a comprehensive package of essential services to improve access to health care to all citizens without exposing them to financial hardship”.

Pakistan is the first country collaborating with DCP3 as part of the national strategy to achieve universal health coverage.

National Coordinator for Emergency Operation Centre for Polio Dr Rana Safdar, while talking to Dawn, said an integrated package of service delivery had been planned to control the virus in 2020.

“As the virus of the crippling disease is more prevalent in 40 UCs, it has been de­­c­ided to increase the immunity level of children by improving the operations. More­over, deficiencies in routine immunisation will also be removed and monitoring will be done by the polio programme,” he said.

Dr Safdar said the idea behind the new plan is to ensure that polio vaccine be administered to a child within 72 hours of his/her birth. Sharing other aspects of the plan with Dawn, he said: “It is observed that there is a human resource issue in health facilities. So, provision of adequate human resource at all health facilities will also be ensured. Another issue is that the immunity level of children is low due to malnutrition. Therefore, we will also look into the issue of malnutrition because that is how immunity level of children can be increased.”

Dr Safdar said that service delivery would be ensured through the stakeholders concerned and the polio programme would do the monitoring.

“It will also remove the grievances of communities as in the past people used to say that the government only focuses on polio and does not care about other health-related issues,” he said.

Polio cases in Pakistan for 2019 are still surfacing, bringing the tally to 128.

An official of the National Institute of Health had earlier told Dawn: “While we are in the year 2020, for about another one month more cases can be added to the total number of cases for 2019 as the date of collection of a sample is considered for placing a case in a certain year, rather than the date of confirmation of the case.”

Twelve polio cases were reported in 2018 and eight in 2017.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2020