Govt to reform polio eradication project COMNet

KARACHI: On the recommendations of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the federal government has decided realignment of the under-performed Communication Network (COMNet) project, it has learnt.
The mega project was initiated on June 1, 2011 for polio eradication with UNICEF allocating a handsome amount to CHIP Training and Consulting (CTC), the third party, while reportedly project had been failed to serve its purpose as 74,000 refusal cases were reported in 2012 while in 2013 the number stood at 154,918. 
Resultantly, the multi-million dollar COMNet project, which has more than 1,600 employees, was apparently dysfunctional as the UNICEF management were reluctant to continue it due to its poor show, sources said.
Now, on the advice of the IMB, Prime Minister’s Polio Monitoring Cell has decided the realignment of COMNet to polio endemic and reservoir area, according to the official document available with Daily Times. 
IMB and Technical Advisory Group’s emphasized on the need to accelerate COMNet realignment from long term polio free areas to reservoir and out break areas and also to align social mobilisation strategies for negotiating access into security challenged regions, it added. 
In this regard, the project will be funded by recently secured financial assistance worth about $227 million for polio eradication initiative from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). 
CTC is tasked to manage the COMNet recruitment, ensuring local staff is hired and held accountable for their work with the communities.
Under realignment’s endeavour, about 80 staff will be hired and deployed for mobilizing communities in transit as well as 12 in Balochistan, 20 in Punjab, and 48 in Sindh. The new positions are scheduled to be in place in July 2014. The COMNet will be involved in mobilising nomadic and migrant communities in addition to registering migrant population settlements for inclusion in micro plans.
The contracts of about 280 staff, included 19 in Balochistan, 91 in Punjab and 170 in Sindh will not extend beyond the June 2014 end while these positions have been adjusted in polio endemic and reservoir regions. CTC has issued a one month notice to abolished staff while they will be paid remuneration/salaries for the month of June 2014, document said.
The COMNet staff for polio eradication has been established by UNICEF under the National Emergency Action Plan with the objective to provide the infrastructure and human resource necessary for awareness rising and demand creation within the polio high risk communicates nationwide. 
In this context, required number of COMNet staff was deployed in priority 1 and some of priority 2 high-risk districts where there were communication challenges and gaps.
The government said that the availability of limited financial assistance has necessitated COMNet realignment vis-à-vis program critically and polio epidemiology. The realignment exercise was completed after detailed union council wise analysis looking at the data of past four campaigns. The criteria for analysis was still missed children (refusal and not available) nomadic and migrant population group settlements, persistent transmissions and environmental sample positive, the document revealed.
Meanwhile, the analysis indicates that there is a need to firewall South East Balochistan, South Punjab and North Sindh by ensuring the nomadic and migrant population group settlements and population on the move are adequately covered. The data does not indicate that still missed children is a major challenge in these districts and in the latest prioritisation of WHO some of these districts such as Ghotki, Khairpur, Sukkur and Faisalabad are listed in priority 4.

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