As part of the joint efforts by the Government of Pakistan and AKU's Institute for Global Health and Development to eradicate polio, Mr Asif Rahim, Additional Secretary Health for Polio and Coordinator, Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), chaired a meeting to discuss the installation of hand pumps in the southern districts of the province. The hand pumps will be installed as community-based incentives to encourage the uptake of Polio vaccine.
In 2021, nationwide efforts to eradicate Polio were truly remarkable. Even with the resource-restrained healthcare delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic, only one case was reported throughout the year. However, after 15 months of zero reported cases, two cases reemerged in North Waziristan in April 2022.
The government of Pakistan has reaffirmed its commitment to end Polio and announced vaccine campaigns with renewed rigor. The Institute’s research team will facilitate and further these efforts by implementing a one-year project titled ‘Community engagement and conditional incentives to accelerate Polio eradication in conflict-affected areas of Pakistan’, generously funded by Global Institute for Disease Elimination (GLIDE). The project targets children under the age of 5 years in high-risk UCs of Baluchistan, KP, and Karachi.
“Community-based incentives which aim to improve the infrastructure are more effective than cash. Similar incentives will be provided to communities with predominantly high refusal rates to motivate positive behaviour and improve vaccine uptake within the stipulated time,” stated Dr Jai K Das, Assistant Professor, AKU and project lead.
Bannu, KP is one of the high-risk areas for Polio in Pakistan and has a long-standing resistance towards the uptake of vaccine. With collaborative efforts of the Health Department of KP, hand pumps will be installed in high-refusal UCs of the district Bannu to improve the shortage of clean water supply and thereby improving vaccine uptake.
“We will fully support this initiative by providing a baseline account of refusal rate which will help in scaling up the services of hand pumps,” stated Mr Rahim.
Also in attendance were Muhammad Zeeshan Khan, Deputy Coordinator EOC, Zahra A Padhani, Manager, Aga Khan University and EOC core team members were also in attending the meeting.