EOC coordinator says security and polio team performance has improved marginally
QUETTA: Poliovirus has not yet been eradicated in Balochistan because the emergency plan was not implemented in letter and spirit said Emergency Operation Center Balochistan Coordinator Dr Syed Saifur Rehman.
“The issue persists in only three districts of Balochistan: Quetta, Pishin and Qilla Abdullah, called the Quetta block,” said Rehman, showing the results of lot quality assurance sampling (LQAS). Rehman spent three days in Qilla Abdullah this week, one of the three districts where more than 95% cases were reported during the last two years.
Of the recent polio drive, Rehman said security was still an issue albeit slightly improved. He said the drive should not have been carried out in two phase – results did not show the strategy to be a success. “The efforts were futile.”
The problem in Balochistan is usually in Pukhtun dominated areas, added Rehman, the drives go smoothly in other parts of the province.
While responding to a question, he said religious scholars and Pukhtun nationalists have to come forward and joined hands with polio campaigners. “They need to play a more proactive role,” he added.
However, he added, as compared to 2014, state of security has become better and not many incidents have been reported. “Even the performance of polio teams has significantly improved during the last eight months,” he added, saying that the commitment of the chief minister, chief secretary and health secretary of the programme shows him a polio-free Balochistan in future.
To pay tribute to frontline workers, Rehman said Balochistan government has dedicated World Polio Day to those who have sacrificed their lives while vaccinating children. On November 26, 2014, at least three female and a male vaccinator were gunned down by unidentified assailants in Quetta.
Rehman said there are hopes Balochistan will be rid of polio after a couple of years. “The Balochistan chief secretary and the deputy commissioners are actively involved in the campaign.”
The federal government set up EOCs in all four provinces and the Federally Administered Tribal after the centres were a success in Nigeria.
Rehman said the strategy is working well and has strengthened the coordination among the government and its partner agencies WHO, UNICEF, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and National Stop Transmission of Polio.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2015.