High-level Consultation - Acceleration of district-level implementation of the polio eradication initiative

Islamabad, Pakistan
3 April 2005

Distinguished guests, colleagues,

First, I would like to thank the efforts of UNICEF, the Rotary and those who are not here, CIDA, CDC, USAID, IFRC. WHO has been thanked a lot but this is a common effort. For every rupee coming from outside, there are four rupee spent from inside the country. This is not the first Polio Conference I have attended, the first was 15 years ago but I hope it will be one of the last.

We are coming closer to our goal of a world without polio. It is so easy to launch new activities but so difficult to complete them. In Asia just three countries are still reporting new cases: Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan. Afghanistan and India show encouraging signs of being able to end polio transmission within a matter of months.

In Pakistan too, polio has been beaten back. National and local government have combined their strengths to confine it to just a few areas. We can draw great encouragement from the fact that we are meeting today about how to accelerate action at the district level, no longer the national level. When your districts are free of polio the whole of Pakistan will be free of it. This will be a major breakthrough for the world.

You are on the verge of making national history, and world history. Through your effective efforts all children everywhere will be protected, for ever, from a devastating disease.

A historical global commitment has brought us this far. Governments, donors, civil society and private enterprise have stood solidly together against polio, freeing one country after another from it. The dedication of the polio partners supports each district represented here today, to help you to defeat polio in the coming months.

Our goal remains the same: to reach and immunize every child, in every district, during every round of immunization. Only a well-planned and carefully-implemented operation can break the grip of polio in the remaining districts.

These operations are based on commitment and coordination from all government sectors — transport, communications, finance, and the broader community. But district officials can make the critical contribution. This means properly training the right vaccinators — for example, ensuring that women are on each team, so they can enter households and find the youngest children. It means negotiating secure access to difficult areas. It means bringing in the community, religious leaders, teachers and parents, so that they can be full participants in the campaign.

Effective implementation includes accountability from the very beginning. Independent monitors help make sure that teams do their job effectively. Government officials at all levels — and not only health officials — must make reaching every child a personal challenge. Quick turn-around of data at district level can pinpoint problems and ensure that they are solved during the immunization activities. These seem like small details, but it is these kinds of details, in these districts, that will finally drive polio out of Pakistan.

The partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are fully committed to this campaign. The President and Prime Minister of Pakistan are personally dedicated to ensuring the success of polio eradication in 2005. But for there to be success, it must be your success, through your efforts. It will be in your districts that we will finally celebrate the end of polio in Pakistan.

On behalf of all those who will be protected from polio by your efforts, I would like to thank you, and wish you every success.

Thank you.