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Polio eradication: Unicef team arriving to review progress

October 02, 2012

RAWALPINDI, Oct 2: A three-member team from United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) is arriving here on Wednesday to review progress on the awareness and communication campaign for polio eradication.

The team will hold meetings with District Coordination Officer (DCO) Saqib Zafar, Executive District Officer (Health) Dr Zafar Iqbal Gondal and other staff of the health department.

Unicef has provided funds to districts across the country for the awareness campaign. The team will review the performance of the communication officers in the union councils and check the refusal cases.

Rawalpindi district’s polio campaign became controversial after the recent detection of a case. The National Institute of Health (NIH) on September 11 confirmed the polio case of Sanaullah, a resident of Bajaur Agency who earlier lived in Mandi Mor, Rawalpindi. However, both the provincial and the district administrations here said the child had left the city and returned to Fata before the start of the campaign in July and contracted the virus there.

Though the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed that the child had contracted the virus in the garrison city, the district administration refused to accept the report.

To resolve the controversy, special assistant to the prime minister Shahnaz Wazir Ali convened a meeting of the WHO, NIH and the Punjab health department officials last week. The meeting decided to form a committee consisting of four senior doctors - two each from Fata and Punjab - to find out the origin of the virus.

The committee decided to record the statement of the father of the child. Last week, the family of the child was brought back to Rawalpindi from Bajaur Agency.

When contacted, the EDO health said the Unicef team’s visit was a routine matter and not linked with the polio case reported from Fata. He said the team comprised consultants hired by donors to gather information and suggestions on how to improve the programme.

“The mission will give suggestions to improve the efficiencies after meeting all the stakeholders,” he said.