I have the honour to speak on behalf of the 53 Member States of the European Region of WHO.
It is now three years since India had the last case of polio and it is a huge achievement for the South East Asia Region of WHO, despite extraordinary challenges in 2013.
We are, however, deeply concerned about the high number of cases in Pakistan. In the countries still endemic, local ownership, establishment of trust to program implementers, and the engagement and work of local religious leaders and authorities will continue to be key to successful program implementation.
The disease outbreaks in the Horn of Africa and the Syrian Arab Republic are a poignant reminder of the need to remain vigilant and for member states to step up measures to interrupt transmission of wild poliovirus globally, including by strengthening their health systems and improving the delivery of routine immunisation programmes.
We commend the renewed political commitments made in the three endemic states, as well as the robust response of WHO and its partners in Syria and in the sub-region. However, we remain concerned about the serious risks posed by the high levels of insecurity and access bans for vaccinators in vulnerable areas and urge all stakeholders to fully cooperate for improving the situation. We roundly condemn the attacks on health workers and we echo the calls for more systematic action to tackle these threats. In this context, we would also welcome an update on the Syria situation.
Given the importance of proper vaccination protection of travelers to and from polio-affected countries, we look forward to the review of this complex issue by the WHO expert group in early 2014, as mentioned in the Secretariat’s report
As we prepare for the withdrawal of the type 2 component of the oral polio vaccine (OPV2) and the introduction of the inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV), adequate capacity should be established at the global level to support Member States to plan and implement all activities associated with this transition. This includes the preparation and regular update of cash flow forecasts as financial commitments often vary in their actual availability at country level, which can severely hamper implementation of crucial time-bound activities. In this regard, we highly welcome the strengthened collaboration between GPEI and GAVI around IPV introduction and strengthening routine immunization.
As regards the legacy planning, we support the continuation of the consultation process through the WHO regional committees in 2014.
Given the importance of transparent monitoring and accountability of the global programme, we would welcome more information on the recent initiatives in this area, such as the systematic risk review and the new decision making process for the oversight of GPEI.
Sustained and flexible funding from the international community is crucial,including availability of sufficient non-earmarked commitments. Every country has a role to play in achieving this global public good, including by contributing to closing the budget gap. The Syria outbreak underlines the importance of regional and global cooperation. Previous achievements and operational priorities should not be adversely impacted upon by insufficient resources.
To conclude, the declaration of poliomyelitis as a global health emergency at the 65 WHA created an unprecedented opportunity to boost international support for a polio-free world. Time is of the essence as the longer the goal is delayed; the more difficult it would be to attain it.