Controlling polio through technology tools

Where the incredible rise in polio cases to over 230 in the year 2014 alone in Pakistan has rung alarm bells for the government, the international stakeholders too are at unease. They fear the situation may aggravate in case remedial measures are not taken or flaws at polio vaccination drives execution stage are not detected in time. Various factors including governments as well as local communities involvement, field workers and security agencies have played a significant role in stamping out the polio virus in the polio-marked states. It, no doubt, is a huge but coordinated national exercise at all level ranging from government to lowest level of public administration in remote areas. India, which was once considered the most unlikely places to eradicate polio, because of its high population density, high rates of migration, poor sanitation, and low rates of route immunization, unprecedentedly got the polio-free status in 2012. However, Pakistan is yet to achieve this status. In fact data-driven planning, well-trained and motivated staff, rigorous monitoring and strong political can make the difference. Various factors including low literacy rate, wrong perceptions and inaccessibility to many areas due to the law and order situation especially in tribal belt are making this task difficult. No doubt, the national polio campaigns are driven vigorously across the country, yet the 100 per cent coverage is yet to be achieved as most of the recent polio’s cases have been reported in remote, tribal and inaccessible areas. Environmental Systems Research Institute creates satellite maps that can clearly show the uncovered villages in inaccessible areas of tribal region. It can provide GPS-enabled cell phones to polio workers. The institute can see where the polio workers would be in real time, and make sure they get to each of the houses in these areas. Using GIS as a tool, supervisors can plan how to deploy their teams in order to cover every village and settlement. In fact, each morning, the teams would receive their GPS-equipped phones and start their visits. At the end of the day, supervisors would download from these phones their tracking data and match it to the GIS system to find out missed areas. Rising polio’s cases have put the country at a very critical stage in terms of criticism from all sides. The government needs to review its execution policy and involve satellite imagery services to locate missed areas. It will make MDGs an achievable task and avoid international sanctions.

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