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Polio eradication KP looks to UN for help

March 24, 2012

PESHAWAR, March 24: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department is trying to seek the United Nations’ help for strengthening union council polio eradication committees to achieve vaccination targets set in the Augmented National Emergency Polio Eradication Plan for 2012, according to the relevant officials.

Officials told Dawn on Saturday that last year, the government formed 972 committees at UC level, which became functional early this year, while the district coordination officers of every district in the province nominated chairpersons for these committees to oversee composition of teams and problems related to their task.

They said the role of the committees had improved a great deal but its members required training on vaccination and how to deal with other problems like refusals, missed children and lack of accessibility by health workers in certain areas.

“In the last campaign,100 per cent coverage was achieved by these teams due to presence of the committee’s members in the campaign. We want to sustain the momentum and ensure that all children up to the age of five years get vaccinated in every campaign,” said an official.

He said: “we have sent a request to WHO and Unicef to provide financial support for training of the committee’s members. We have suggested that they hire a firm and impart one-time training to our members.”

Officials said the committee members needed to be given information about vaccination so they could convince parents about importance of administration of oral polio vaccine to their children.

They said in the last few months, the committees had played a key role in addressing refusal cases whose number stood at 19,141 in March compared to 23,000 reported in previous campaign.

Officials said training would help committee members to understand some technical issues like efficacy and alleged side effects of OPV before they remove people’s misconceptions and fears about it.

According to them, the committees headed by medical officers or assistant coordination officers and comprising principals, headmasters, prayer leaders and the ruling party leaders in the respective union councils are responsible to the District Control Room working under the focal person.

The focal person recommends action against lax workers in light of the committees’ advice.

“Our only problem is lack of resources. For every intervention, we look towards donors for assistance who have their own priorities,” an official said.

Officials said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had reported four of the 14 polio cases surfaced in the country this year but the virus was still in circulation in central districts of Peshawar, Nowshera, Mardan and Charsadda and southern districts of Kohat, Lakki Marwat, Tank and Dera Ismail Khan. They said the health department had planned to pay special attention to these areas.

“We need to train committee members in high-risk districts so that they could make area-specific interventions. We are hopeful of receiving UN assistance to enhance performance of these committees,” an official said.

Of the 198 cases reported in Pakistan last year, which was the highest number in the world, 23 were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.