World Polio Day is observed by Rotary International globally on 24th October every year to honor Dr. Jonas Salk – the developer of a vaccine against polio. It is because of the polio vaccine, that historic progress has been made toward a polio-free world. In Pakistan Rotary Clubs at different locations celebrate Polio Day by conducing school events, workshops walks, health camps etc. Pakistan National Polio Plus Committee, Rotary International organized a Polio Summit on World Polio Day on 24 October 2016 at Serena Hotel, Islamabad. The Summit attended by all stakeholders from Government of Pakistan, WHO, UNICEF, BMGF, diplomats of funding partner countries and Rotarians .
The summit was chaired by Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication and Chief Guest was Chair, International Polio Plus Committee Michael K McGovern.
National Chair Aziz Memon welcomed the participants and thanked everyone for joining the summit for a common cause to make Pakistan a polio free country.
He said, polio cases declined and environmental samples have decreased as well as statistics on missed children have come down considerably. He also pointed out the recent polio case emerging from Sujawal, Sindh. He said the family is Pashtun and the virus transmitted from Afghanistan.
National EOC Coordinator Dr. Rana Safdar briefed the audience on polio eradication efforts in Pakistan. He highlighted that there were 306 cases in 2014, which reduced to 15 in same time period this year. He remarked on the progress of SIAs during the year. He said significant achievement have been made this year due to:
- Prime Minister and Chief Ministers personal leadership
- National / Provincial Task Forces
- Revamped PM Focus Group with Chief Secretaries as active members
- Regular campaign reviews by Chief Secretaries in all provinces, Divisional Task Forces and District Polio Eradication Committees
- Tremendous support from law enforcement agencies
- Community engagement and ownership
- ONE Team … implementing ONE data driven program
- Identifying and addressing gaps on real time basis
- Focus on remaining challenges to vaccinate all children each time
Dr. Abdireham Team Leader WHO expressed his views and progress of polio campaigns during the year. He said repeated SIAs, IPV Health Camps brought change in polio scenario and lowering cases numbers. He said ‘we will utilize upcoming low transmission season to end polio this year.’
Aiden O’ Leary Team Leader UNICEF spoke about the communication strategy and highlighted the role of Front Line workers (FLW). He appreciated the strong partnership between Government and polio partners to kick out polio by year end. He said Sehat Muhafizprogram made it easier for the CVs to reach door to door to cover missed children.
Haji Hanif Tayyab, Chair Polio Ulema Committee offered prayers for the vaccinators and policemen killed during polio campaigns across the country.
Sue Gerber, BMGF highlighted the role of BMGF and EOCs in Pakistan. She said there is a need to continue the pace of moving forward to attain the desired goal of zero missed children.
Senator Saeed Ghani, advisor to Chief Minister Sindh highlighted the role of Government and commitment to eradicate polio from Sindh. He said the Task Forces at Chief Secretary, Commissioner and District level are functioning with full zeal. He assured to kick off polio by the end of this year. He also mentioned HR UCs of Karachi and said coverage is better in these areas and more missed children will be covered in current SNID.
A video message from Polio Ambassador of Pakistan Aseefa Bhutto was played at the summit.
Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, Prime Minster Focal Person on polio Eradication welcomed the international Chair Polio Plus Committee Michael K. McGovern. She thanked National Chair Aziz Memon for organizing such a summit on Polio Day to share views of all stake holders. She appreciated the role of Rotary in advocacy and working as catalyst to eradicate polio. She said World Polio Day is the day to re-commit and get rid of this crippling disease. She spoke of continuous commitment of the Government with polio eradication initiative and support from all polio partners has made it possible to bring down polio cases to 15 this year and assured that ‘we will bring polio cases to zero by next year.’ However we have challenges to cover transit population between two countries i.e. Pakistan and Afghanistan. The virus is still persistent in adjoining provinces of Afghanistan and has become a challenge for us. At the end she thanked all polio partners, all EOCs, Pakistan Army, Pakistan Rangers, Foreign diplomats for fighting against polio and inaugurated the SNIDs by administrating polio drops to a child.
A Polio jingle was played elaborating the hard work of Front Line Workers. The jingle made by PNPPC was much appreciated by all stake holders.
Chair, Rotary International’s PolioPlus Committee Michael K. McGovern expressed his confidence, that taking into account the commitment and zeal with which the various stakeholders have been working; there is a realistic hope of eradicating polio from Pakistan by interrupting transmission of polio virus by the end of this year (2016).
He said Rotary International has provided grant funding to polio eradication initiative partners UNICEF and the World Health Organization, for their work in Pakistan.
Rotary Clubs members have worked in polio endemic countries alongside their respective governments, with unflinching dedication to carry out immunization activities. Mass immunizations of children via the oral polio vaccine must continue until global eradication is achieved.
After the tea break a brief presentation was given on progress and achievements in FATA. Dr Nadeem Khan, He highlighted the long journey to cover missed children in FATA and border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. He talked of the geographical challenges in inaccessible areas of FATA agencies as;
- Environment of fear and threat
- Communication barriers in NWA & SWA
- Mobility and accommodation in NWA & SWA
- Weak routine EPI coverage
- Poor female involvement in campaigns
- Border movement (un-supervised)
- Threat of Virus importation from Afghanistan and KP
He said we are committed and will cover each and every child in FATA. He thanked Rotary for its continuous support and establishing of shelters at the Pak-Afghan border at Torkham and Bhagiari in Khyber Agency. He requested Rotary to provide more support in social mobilization and establishment of three immunization centers in FATA.
Haji Hanif Tayyab, Chair Polio Ulema Committee stressed on involvement of local Ulema of all sects. He gave details of FATWAs and said there is no harm to administrate polio drops to children. The role of religious leaders is very important and we have involved hundreds of religious leader in polio awareness and disseminating messages at grass roots level. In conclusion he said ‘we will eliminate this disease for good from the world.’
‘Government Commitment and policies are very much in line with NEAP and we are working together to fight against polio’, said by Ayub Shaikh Secretary Health, Government of Pakistan. He stressed on Mother & Child Health care and need to strengthen routine immunization. We are very close to kick off polio and the Government has prepared a road map to achieve the target.
He said that all Government stakeholders at Federal and Provincial level including Chief Ministers, Chief Secretaries, Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners at district level are on the same page, each playing their role effectively.
Salman Ahmed, Rotary Goodwill Polio Ambassador emphasized that he is motivating polio workers, school children by his songs. He played a song made on polio eradication which was appreciated by the audience.
Zohare Ali Shariff, CEO Asiatic Public Relations Pvt. Ltd (APR) represented Coca Cola Pakistan. He spoke on the role of corporate sector and highlighted the partnership of Rotary and Coca Cola Pakistan. He said the Coca-Cola Export Corporation, Pakistan is very keen to eradicate polio from high risk areas of Karachi and Peshawar. He elaborated Coca Cola’s Pakistan support to Rotary by installation of Reverse Osmosis Plant in Malir Karachi, Power Generator (30KV) and seven installations of Solar Water Filtration Plants in HR UCS of Karachi and one in Peshawar.
An interactive panel discussion was conducted with foreign funding partners. The session was facilitated by Michael G Mc Govern and attended by Perry Johan Calderwood High Commission Canada; Teppei Nakagawa First Secretary Japan High Commission and Dr. Jens Jokisch – Deputy Head of Missions – German Embassy. The diplomats shared their funding for PEI in Pakistan and showed their interest to combat polio from the country. They assured their support till the end of the task and endorsed their confidence over the working of Government and polio partners to achieve the target.
The other panel discussion which took place with all four Zonal Coordinators of Polio Plus Committee was facilitated by National Chair Aziz Memon; each Zonal Coordinator elaborated working of Rotary High Risk Focus Group and Rotary Club activities. PP Masood Bhalli Chief Coordinator Sindh gave details of Rotary Resource Centers, their functions and providing training facilities for Female Community Volunteer (FCVs) for Community Based Vaccine program. CDG Rauf Rohaila Chief Coordinator KPK appreciated the working of EOC KPK and FATA who made remarkable progress. He said to promote routine immunization, Rotary introduced e monitoring through cellphone project in Peshawar and Nowshera Districts of KPK and linked 150 Health Workers with the District Polio Control Room for better planning of micro plans and reaching missed child and refusals. PP Dr. Hanif Khilji Chief Coordinator Balochistan showed his reservation on transmission of polio virus from neighboring provinces of Afghanistan. PDG Saeed Shamsi Chief Coordinator Punjab informed the participants that there is no case in Punjab and environmental samples are negative. However we have to continue our efforts to maintain it.
District Governor 3271 Saleem Rao addressed the participant and gave details of celebrating World Polio Day by Rotary clubs in his district. He showed his full commitment to support all polio eradication initiatives by the Government and polio partners.
Sachi Kahania – Polio True Stories was played and was greatly appreciated by the audience
District Governor 3272 Mir Arif gave a brief background of the day. He said due to continuous efforts of polio partners and strong commitment by the Government we are very close to ending polio. He appreciated shifting paradigm of Government toward ‘Missed Children.’
At the end DGE Faiza Qamar (3272) said the objective of the summit is to provide a forum to share experiences, success, failures to move forward and attain common goal of polio eradication from the country. She paid vote of thanks to all dignitaries, polio partners, Rotarians for their active participation in the summit.