Transition planning is a critical part of preparing for the polio-free world. As we come closer to achieving eradication, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) will begin to wind down its operations, and will come to a close in the post-eradication era.
Over three decades of operation, GPEI has built significant infrastructure for disease surveillance, social mobilization, and vaccine delivery; developed in-depth knowledge and expertise; and learned valuable lessons about reaching the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations on earth.
Some of this key knowledge, infrastructure and functions of GPEI will be transitioned into ongoing health initiatives. National governments and the GPEI partners, in collaboration with other stakeholders, are working together to plan this transition process.
Why do we need to transition polio assets?
The Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategy identifies three main aims of transition planning:
Keep the world polio free
After polio has been eradicated, some activities and functions of GPEI will need to continue to make sure the world stays polio-free. These include:
- Proper containment of the virus in essential facilities so it isn’t accidentally or intentionally released
- Disease surveillance, to rapidly detect the re-emergence of the virus
- Outbreak response capabilities, for quick and effective response to any polio events
- Continued vaccination, so that people are protected in the event of an outbreak
- A governance and management structure for these ongoing essential functions
National governments and GPEI partners must plan for some essential functions and activities to be incorporated into existing public health programs in order to keep the world polio-free.
In consultation with key stakeholders, GPEI is developing a polio post-certification strategy to specify which functions and activities are needed to maintain a polio-free world, and the policy decisions, mechanisms and financial requirements needed to maintain these functions. The strategy will also provide technical guidelines for these activities, and establish the type of governance structure required to manage them once GPEI is closed.
Transition polio assets to support other health priorities
GPEI runs an extensive infrastructure of global disease surveillance systems, vaccine supply and logistics networks, and a network of over 140 polio laboratories. It has built significant communication for development know-how and capacity building expertise, and developed thousands of skilled staff and millions of community based health workers, social mobilisers, and volunteers. GPEI’s operational capacities help reach populations in areas with little to no infrastructure.
This infrastructure already goes much further than polio eradication, supporting a wide range of health initiatives like routine immunization, measles campaigns, maternal and child health programmes, humanitarian emergencies and disease outbreak, and sanitation and hygiene programmes.
The closure of GPEI presents a potential risk to these programmes, as they are vulnerable to the loss of support from the polio program. Parts of the polio infrastructure currently supporting other health and development programmes may be transitioned to national and global health initiatives to reduce these risks, and help achieve broader health and development goals.
Capture and transfer the lessons learned
GPEI has learned many valuable lessons on reaching hard-to-reach and high-risk populations, working in conflict affected areas, harnessing global commitment to a cause, and other challenging areas. A key component of transition planning is to capture and share these lessons for the benefit of the broader development community.
Learn more about capturing and sharing lessons learned.
What is transition planning?
Transition planning is a process of analysing the infrastructure, knowledge, and functions of the polio programme, and managing their scale down or transfer to other health programs. The goals of this planning process are to ensure the world remains polio free, make sure the programme’s benefits continue, and capture and share lessons learned from GPEI.
The process involves mapping these assets at country, regional and global levels, and analysing against national and global health and development needs. Where there is overlap, and where it is possible, assets will be incorporated into alternative health programmes and systems. Remaining functions of GPEI will be scaled down and closed along with the programme.
GPEI has set up a Transition Independent Monitoring Board (TIMB) to independently monitor and guide the transition planning process. Reporting to the Polio Oversight Board, the TIMB will assess the quality, timeliness, sufficiency and results of transition planning efforts. They review and give feedback on the transition planning process, the plans themselves and the involvement of various stakeholders including government, GPEI, donors, and civil society.
The TIMB will hold its first meeting in early May 2017.