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04 Feb 2019

The World Health Organisation has praised the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan for their efforts in the bid to wipe out polio in their respective countries.

The two countries are the only two where wild poliovirus cases were reported last year.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently undertook a four-day visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan and commended their governments for providing provide universal access to health services.

Dr Tedros met with heads of state and senior government officials in both countries and witnessed first-hand WHO-supported health programs.

He also visited the Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication in Islamabad, Pakistan, where he commended the work of government and partners as “one team under one roof” and highlighted the critical importance of working closely with Afghanistan to prevent cross-border transmission.

“We must all give our best on this last mile to eradicate polio once and for all. My wish for 2019 is for zero polio transmission. You have WHO’s full support to help reach every child and stop this virus for good,” Dr Tedros said.

In Afghanistan, Dr Tedros and the Government there launched the newly developed Integrated Package of Essential Health Services. This package includes the most cost-effective evidence-based interventions that reflect the most common causes of mortality and morbidity in the country. It keeps the focus on primary health care but also adds noncommunicable diseases and trauma care. Dr Tedros confirmed WHO’s support to the Government to develop financing options to help ensure access to health services for all Afghans.

Dr Tedros also visited the Trauma Care Hospital run by the Italian NGO Emergency in Kabul, where Dr Tedros thanked humanitarian workers for their important work.

In Pakistan, Dr Tedros helped the Government launch of the first Pakistan Nursing and Midwifery Summit and the Nursing Now campaign. Pakistan faces a critical shortage of health workers including nurses and midwives. The country needs more than 720,000 nurses to achieve universal health coverage by 2030.

He also visited a basic health centre in Shah Allah Ditta where WHO signed an agreement with the Government of Pakistan to develop a model health care system for universal health coverage in Islamabad.

Dr Tedros commended the Government for its initiatives to tax tobacco and sugary drinks, as well as its plans to increase the health budget to 5 per cent of GDP by 2023 (from the current 0.9 per cent of GDP).

Published: 04 Feb 2019