ISLAMABAD: An Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for Polio has been established; however it is in violation of the recommendations made by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB).

No new appointments have been made for the EOC and an official of the ministry of NHS has been made the head of the new body.

The IMB works on behalf of international donor agencies and issues reports regarding the performance of countries in combating the poliovirus after every six months.

On June 2, 2014, the IMB shared its recommendations for Pakistan in combating the poliovirus. It declared the Prime Minister’s Polio Cell a ‘shadow boxing entity’ and recommended that a new ‘Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for Polio’ be established before July 1, 2014. It was recommended that both the president and prime minister of Pakistan oversee this new entity.

However, as the EOC could not be established in time, in October 2014 the IMB took back this recommendation and instead recommended that the entire polio programme be handed over to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

Contrary to recommendations made by IMB, no new appointments have been made for the new body
An official of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), on condition of anonymity, said the ministry advertised 21 posts for the EOC on November 7 but notified the EOC on November 24.

“On November 30, Prime Minister’s Focal Person for Polio MNA Ayesha Raza Farooq notified the EOC without making any appointments,” he said.

He said an officer of the NHS ministry has been made the head of the EOC which is a government entity. He explained that the ministry had advertised the posts assuming that the World Health Organisation (WHO) would be funding the hiring; however upon learning that the WHO would not be providing funds, the idea was dropped.

According to the notification, available with Dawn, the technical unit will have the national consultant of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), representatives of WHO and Unicef. The high risk unit will have representative officers of the Pakistan Army and the United Arab Emirates Pakistan Assistance Programme (UAE-PAP).

The officer said no such officer has so far been appointed.

“The IMB has already expressed concerns over the lack of leadership and the will required for the success of Pakistan’s polio programme. The recent notifications prove that there is nothing new about the EOC. It is old wine in a new bottle,” he said.

The officer expressed fears that the number of polio cases in Pakistan would cross the 300 mark.

“The same people who failed to control polio in Pakistan have been given responsibilities again,” he said.

PM Focal Person for Polio Ayesha Raza Farooq, while talking to Dawn, confirmed that the idea for new appointments for EOC had been dropped.

She said that although EOC was a government entity, it was decided to nominate Dr Altaf Bosan, representative of BMGF, as technical head of EOC because of his experience.

“Mr Bosan has a lot of experience in dealing with poliovirus; later we may bring a government servant for the post. The head of the Communication Unit is Mazhar Nisar and we are looking for a head for the high risk unit,” she said.

“As far as representation of the army is concerned, it will be taken on board for polio campaigns in Fata and other sensitive areas. I am sure the EOC would produce good results and there will be improvement,” she said.