The challenges in Quetta block will be overcome through all possible means to make Balochistan Polio free during the current low transmission season ending May this year. The assurance came from Mr. Saifullah Chattha, Chief Secretary Balochistan who called on Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, the Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication in Islamabad today.  The important meeting held in the context of recent positive environmental samples from Quetta and 20th case of 2016 from Killa Abdullah reviewed in detail the Polio situation in Balochistanin general and Quetta block (Quetta, Pishin and Killa Abdullah) in particular. The meeting was also attended by the Coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre, Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar.

With continued decline in cases, proportion of positive environmental samples and genetic diversity of the circulating virus Pakistan is closer to interruption of Polio virus than ever, stated Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq. She however, conveyed her concern on the persistent positive environmental samples from Quetta and the most recent Polio case detected from Killa Abdullah a day before. With the progress in core reservoirs of Karachi and Khyber-Peshawar, the existing gaps in Quetta block need to be immediately filled to achieve the goal, she said.

The Chief Secretary Balochistanshared details of the actions underway to mitigate the current risks in Quetta block as well as the rest of the province. In accordance with the national vision, Polio eradication remains the top most priority of the Balochistan Government and no stone will be left unturned to interrupt the crippling virus through high quality campaigns, he affirmed.

The meeting reviewed epidemiological investigation report of the most recent case, a 4 months child who had received only two doses of Polio vaccine due to misconceptions and none in routine immunization. The PM’s Focal Person advised the programme to use the case as example to educate communities about possible consequences of vaccine refusal. Reviewing programme data for campaigns as well as the surveillance, immediate strengthening of routine immunization emerged as an immediate priority both in Quetta as well as the rest of Balochistan. Immediate actions for the purpose will be initiated and monitored by myself, assured Chief Secretary.

Praising the maintenance of the high-level government commitment and the continuous support from LEA despite challenging security situation, the National Coordinator shared district wise details of potentially low performing Union Councils, requiring special focus in the province. The Chief Secretary Balochistan conveyed that he will convene a special meeting on Sunday, 15th January to ensure fool proof preparedness for the January Nationwide campaign. Moreover, the monitoring will be further strengthened to ensure that no child is left unvaccinated, Chief Secretary stated.

Pakistan reported 20 cases in 2016 against 54 in 2015 and 306 in 2014. Nevertheless, the ultimate goal of Zero Polio is yet to be achieved. With considerable improvements elsewhere, the performance in Quetta block during campaigns during January till May 2017 could define the final success. The nationwide campaign in Pakistan starts on 16th January however, the same in Quetta block will start from 23rd January. To plug the immunity gaps in areas with residual risk, combined OPV/IPV campaigns are planned in February and March 2017.