PESHAWAR: The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) of World Health Organisation (WHO) on Polio Eradication has declared Khyber Pakhtunkhwa a major barrier to polio eradication efforts in Pakistan.
The TAG, which is the main evaluation body, said the parallel system of polio eradication in KP is one of the main reasons behind the failure of the system. The TAG said the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) of KP is not aligned with the EOC in the Centre and roles and responsibilities of the EOC in KP are not clear. It said the KP polio programme must be reset as the current mechanism of different strategic approaches to polio vaccination programmes, particularly in far off areas, is not working.
The TAG on polio eradication is a group of experts who work on behalf of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative for assessments and as advisory to polio endemic countries. The TAG meets after every six months.
Alarming increase has been witnessed in polio cases in Pakistan recently with 58 cases reported in the country this year, including 44 in KP. The TAG said the merger of erstwhile Fata with KP was a contributing factor and fake finger prints showed in some areas to dodge the polio teams by unwilling parents was also a major problem.
However, it said, the communication strategies used by the KP polio eradication programme must improve.
For Balochistan, the TAG has expressed appreciation for its good efforts to control the disease. For Punjab, it noted some progress over the past couple of months. The TAG said Sindh is receiving heavy polio virus from KP and that the KP government needed to put its own house in order.
Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Babar Bin Atta said the federal government was encouraged by the TAG recommendations. He said the TAG recommendations match the vision and direction of a faulty polio programme that the government inherited last year. He said many recommendations of the TAG were already under consideration of the government and some of them were in implementation process.
The KP government has also taken several actions to control the spread of polio virus including blocking the identity cards of refusing parents, sacking the negligent staff and acting against those who make propaganda against vaccination. However, the desired results could not be achieved due to reasons probably pointed out by the TAG.