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Dhaka Tribune

Polio clearance- Bangladesh must wait for India

Update : 29 Apr 2013, 08:51 AM

Despite being a polio-free country since 2006, Bangladesh will have to wait till next year to get accreditation from World Health Organisation (WHO) because India’s status bars the endorsement.

According to Who rules, if a country remains polio-free for three consecutive years, it is eligible for the status. However, since Bangladesh is a member of the South East Asia Regional Organisation (Searo) Who will not issue the polio-free certificate to it if any other country in the organisation has polio patients.

Dr Tazul Islam Bari, programme manager of the Expanded Immunisation Programme told the Dhaka Tribune: “Our neighbouring country found a polio patient in Howra, West Bengal, in January 2011.”

Searo consists of 11 countries: Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bhutan, North Korea, Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand and Timor. All these countries will likely be declared polio-free at the beginning of the next year.

According to a Who report, cases of polio have decreased by over 99% since 1988.

Compared to 350,000 polio patients detected worldwide in 1988, the number came down to only 650 in 2011 as results of combined global efforts to eradicate the disease.

In 2012, only three countries were polio-endemic: Afganistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

Like many other countries in the world, government-run immunisation programmes in Bangladesh have eradicated polio, said Dr Tazul Islam, adding that no polio patient has been found in the country since November 2006.

He further added that in an effort to get polio-free status, Bangladesh administered the polio vaccination to more than 22 million children below five years old while observing National Immunisation Day (NID) across the country.

On that day, field workers administer oral polio vaccine to all children aged 0-59 months, and vitamin A capsules to children aged 12-59 months, at 140,000 sites across the country, located in health facilities and health centres, schools and mobile sites (bus, boat and train stations).

After the observance of the immunisation day, mobile teams carry out a four-day, door-to-door immunisation programme in order to ensure that no child was left out.

The government, with the support of Unicef, WHP, Rotary International and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mounted a model response to immunise all under-five children across the country.

Since 1995, Bangladesh started NIDs to eradicate Polio. This was in addition to its nation-wide normal immunisation programme.

Since a detection in March 2006, there have been six rounds of polio NIDs in 2006 and four rounds in 2007. At each of these rounds, between 95% and 98% of under-five children in the country were reached.

Prior to this case, the country had been polio-free for five years. Eighteen polio cases were later detected in 12 districts, with the last one reported in November 2006.

During the 17th NID in November 2008, the polio and vitamin A coverage were 97.6% and 96.4%, respectively. Around 97% coverage was achieved in the 18th NID.

This tremendous achievement of administering polio vaccine and vitamin A was the result of the combined efforts of the Ministry of Health, many development partners, Who, and NGOs, coordinated by the government.

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