Elections, threat to vaccinators may hit polio eradication plan: WHO

January 21, 2013 - 6:51:40 am

ISLAMABAD: Amid growing threat to vaccinators in Pakistan and the impending elections, the World Health Organisation (WHO) fears that the country’s polio eradication programme may be derailed.

As indicated in a report to be placed before a nine-day WHO Executive Board meeting in Geneva from today, the countrywide terrorist attacks against immunisation workers and the suspension of polio campaigns since June 2012 in north-western Khyber and Bajaur tribal districts, are threatening to slow Pakistan’s progress in fighting the crippling virus.

There is also a lurking fear that national and provincial elections towards the middle of this year might divert the authorities’ attention from the polio eradication programme. However, the encouraging news is that to address these challenges, Pakistan is updating national its polio emergency action plan as reflected in the global polio eradication and endgame strategic plan 2013-2018 by incorporating innovations, best practices and lessons learnt last year. Among the areas covered under these improvements are programme oversight, monitoring and accountability, detailed planning for supplementary and routine immunisation activities, data management, accessing and engaging underserved and mobile populations, and operating in insecure environments.

In 2013, partner agencies will continue supporting national emergency action plan by fully implementing and sustaining the necessary surge in technical support, assisting with the implementation of direct payment mechanisms, enhancing the development and application of processes for assessing in real-time the preparedness for supplementary immunisation activities and the performance of those activities, refining plans for operations in insecure areas, and dealing with gaps in surveillance performance.