Terrorism and polio have had crippling effect on Pakistan’s image abroad, hence both have been declared national emergencies. Polio had paralleled the former in the larger narrative of our failings in a hostile global environment.

Polio may be only one of many other vaccine preventable diseases, but its eradication has a symbolic effect for countries signatory to the UN Millennium Development Goals. Failure to do so reflects poorly on the capacity and performance of a state. One of last three polio countries in the world, Pakistan had to achieve the objective and do so quickly.

There were two routes to achieving polio eradication Pakistan. The first was about implementing the National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP 2015), worked out in meticulous detail, in letter and spirit. The second part was exploring workable innovations that help achieve the objective in short span of time.

As part of NEAP implementation, the setting up of Emergency Operation Center in the provincial Health Directorate was the first milestone. The center was conceived to be an integrated control unit for polio eradication with government and international partners working under one roof, led by the former. As an organizational model, developing a viable team from a diverse range of human resource, coming from different organizational cultures, was one challenge, inspiring them to perform to their true potential was the other.

In simple words, this was a test of government leadership. In Human Resource support arrangements for EOC, whenever requested by partners, the government support in selection panels rendered a qualitative impetus to identification of professionals through a complex yet transparent process. This contributed a great deal towards achieving the NEAP objectives.

This was also a new experiment in governance in which the programme leader, inevitably from government side, was expected to turn the organizational diversity into a mutually contributing strength. Skeptics and cynics argued otherwise.

A year down the line, the EOC Punjab has all the answers to its critics. The innovative model has been successful and provides an example to other departments. Enriching the system with talented mid-career professionals can be immensely beneficial for better service delivery.

The second challenge was the introduction of innovative approaches, in sync with developments in larger spheres of our times and customised to local needs. The SIAs could not continue forever; Punjab needed to boost our routine immunization.

Punjab’s Routine Immunization coverage was well below its neighbors only a year back. Besides, the accuracy of data on coverage was also not reliable. For this the provincial EPI program conceived an android-based system to assess and monitor the performance of vaccinating staff.

The Punjab Information Technology Board developed this application named E-vaccs, introduced initially for data and record sharing. The E-vaccs coverage was incorporated as a main indicator in the Chief Minister Roadmap’s monthly progress review. The application was then further developed and now the E-vaccs-2 after a successful pilot has been upscaled to the whole province.

The Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization and International Monitoring Board in London lauded Punjab for pioneering the use of technology in immunization. The application has become a reference for Pakistan and Punjab has been approached by western some countries who are keen to understand the working of this innovative model.

Within a year, Punjab has been able to increase its routine immunization coverage to above 70 per cent, rising from 55 per cent less than a year ago. In many other developments, Punjab has introduced injectable inactivated polio vaccine and the switch from bOPVG to tOPV is due in April 2016.

In 2014, Punjab accounted for just 4 cases out of a total of 306 in the country. In the year 2015, there has been only one case so far out of a total of 38 in the country, an under-nourished 71-month old child in Chakwal, who escaped disability because of over 12 immunization doses. But statistically, that’s stands as a polio case.

Migrant and mobile population remains Punjab’s biggest problem. Hundreds of thousand of travelers move in and out of Punjab to reservoir areas in other provinces all through the year. Then there are seasonal migrants in bordering areas who come for a short time.

The writer is attached with Punjab’s Polio Programme