Pakistan: polio eradication infrastructure supports flood relief efforts
In Pakistan, polio eradication staff and resources are being used to help in the response to the devastating floods affecting the country. Polio eradication epidemiologists and surveillance officers in the worst-affected areas of North West Frontier Province (NWFP, now known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Punjab are equipped with vehicles, radio equipment, satellite phones, vital medicines and potable water tanks. The immediate focus has been on conducting a thorough assessment of the extent of the devastation, and communicating these findings back to Islamabad to enable more effective relief planning. Staff have also been engaged in helping establish an early warning system for diseases and potential outbreaks, a key concern in the relief effort.
Polio supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) initially scheduled for 3-5 August have been postponed in the affected areas of NWFP and Punjab. Emphasis is on monitoring population movements, including to internally-displaced persons camps, and implementing special strategies to reach these groups with polio vaccine.
The global polio eradication network is uniquely equipped with both international and national professional staff, allowing for immediate support to emergency response. The network is able to provide rapid assessment and early logistical and operational support. With local knowledge of communities, health systems and government structures, the polio network’s technical capacity in disease surveillance and planning of large-scale operations is often at the forefront of international and national relief efforts.