Polio Eradication and the Implications for Health Governance

H.E. Dr. Suraya DALIL, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations participated in panel discussion on Polio Eradication and the Implications for Health Governance organized by the global health program at the Geneva Graduate Institute on Friday 11th March 2016.

Other Speakers in the panel were H.E. Ms. Tehmina Janjua, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, H.E. Ms. Carole Lanteri, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Monaco to the United Nations and the Co-chair of Polio Partners Group, Mr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi Alliance and Mr. Jan Hendrik Schmitz Guinote, Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Nations. The event was moderated by Ms. Ilona Kickbusch, Director of the global health program at the Graduate Institute.

Ambassador DALIL in her presentation stated that Polio Eradication have been a remarkable journey in Afghanistan that has tangible achievements and impact on the life of children, but at the same time it was also confronted with obstacles and challenges. Polio Eradication is among the very successful public health programs in Afghanistan that reaches more than seven million children all over the country at least four times a year. There is a strong commitment by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan toward polio Eradication. This commitment is evident directly from the President’s office through the Polio Eradication steering committee chaired by H.E. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and with the participation of the relevant cabinet Ministers and governors of high-risk provinces. To ensure results, eradication of polio has been included in the performance appraisal of relevant provincial governors and NGOs that provide basic health care.

On the measures taken by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to eradicate polio; among others, Ambassador DALIL mentioned the National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) that was developed three years ago and since then it remains a top agenda for the country. Furthermore, multi-sectorial collaboration between different ministries, provincial and district governors, health and non-health stakeholders and local community members have been a great help to minimize the security challenges and improve the campaign quality in all over the country.

Afghanistan hosts a number of refugees especially from Waziristan, many of whom were not vaccinated prior to their arrival to Afghanistan, the Government Afghanistan pays significant attention that those refugees receive not only polio vaccines but also other necessary vaccines. On the legacy of post polio era, Ambassador DALIL mentioned surveillance, micro-planning and working with others at the operational level have been great lessons learned for the Government of Afghanistan. Cross border coordination between Afghanistan and Pakistan remains a vital priority. The Polio teams in both countries share surveillance data on a weekly basis and synchronize the vaccination dates.

On the challenges; inaccessibility due to conflict, climate of fear in certain areas as well as demand-related gaps and overall gaps in routine immunization within the health system were mentioned.