The International Monitoring Board (IMB) for Global Polio Eradication that met at College of Physicians in London on Tuesday and commended Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme for its continued progress towards the interruption of Polio in the country. Appreciating the commitment of the political and administrative leadership, the Board assessed all time low virus transmission intensity as a unique opportunity to rid the world of crippling disease forever.

The Independent Monitoring Board comprises of top global experts on polio.

Led by the Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar, Pakistan’s delegation to the meeting included Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio Eradication, Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, National Coordinator, Chief Secretary Baluchistan, Additional Chief Secretary FATA and Health Secretaries of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Last year the IMB had recognized transformative improvements in performance of the Pakistan polio eradication programme brought about by the dynamic network of Emergency Operations Centres and urged Pakistan to maintain the momentum.

Addressing the board, Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar said that the Prime Minister had declared Polio eradication as one of the top priorities in the health sector in Pakistan intractably linked to Sustainable Development Goals and the ‘National Health Vision 2025’.

She said the programme has been focused on fully implementing the  National Emergency Action Plan on polio. A performance culture has been consolidated around a drive for results and urgency. Our collective efforts have been to ensure the key foundations of the programme are built on solid structures like the importance of the vaccinator – female, local to the Mohalla, well trained and well supervised; ensuring good micro-planning across the board; and a high investment in risk management.

We continue to drive encouragement from the progress. 20 Polio cases in 2016 are lowest ever recorded and the current case count of 2 compares to 11 during the same time period in 2016. Last cases from core reservoirs of Karachi and Khyber-Peshawar were seen in early 2016 and since September 2016, outbreaks in the tier 4 districts of Kohistan and South Sindh have been effectively contained, the Minister added.


          Presenting the situation report, Prime Minister’s Focal Person stated that the country programme efforts have given Pakistan a current polio epidemiology that remains the best ever seen however interrupting polio virus circulation and eradication are zero sum games.The encouraging results are driving the progress now – 20 Polio cases in 2016 were lowest ever recorded and the current case count of 2 compares to 11 during the same time period in 2016.

          The country team shared details of activities conducted during the low transmission season thus for in programme areas of operations, surveillance as well as the management and oversight. The results of recent survey indicating high immunity levels in the highest risk areas were also presented. The delegation further shared the remaining risks and mitigation measures that the programme aimed to implement from now till the end of 2017 in all provinces and areas. The IMB was further updated on mechanisms put in place to jointly tackle the virus risk in bordering zones with Afghanistan.

          The Board acknowledged the great progress made and thanked both the dedicated work force of over 250,000 valiant frontline workers for their unwavering commitment, the people of Pakistan and the polio management team both at national and subnational levels for their commitment, creativity and hard work. The IMB Chair, Sir Liam Donaldson further hosted a private dinner for the Pakistan delegation in recognition of their services for the global cause.

The IMB will be concluding deliberations by the end of this week and will issue recommendations during May. The National Coordinator, Dr. Safdar termed the IMB deliberations very reassuring and motivating for the national polio eradication team. Thanks to the commitment of our nation, the virus is now fighting for its survival.We have to stay focused and only a bit of additional push could help us in achieving a significant global public health landmark, he stated.