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WHO deploys personnel to help monitor polio cases, vows to provide logistics, technical support

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By Analou De Vera 

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday renewed its commitment to help the Philippines in addressing the polio problem that the country is now facing.

World Health Organization Regional Director for Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai, left, listens as WHO Representative in the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe addresses the media at the start of the five-day annual session Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, in Manila, Philippines. The meeting comes at a time "as the region continues to fight infectious diseases like dengue and malaria, among others, and to better respond to disasters and emergencies that affect the nearly 1.9 billion people of the Western Pacific Region." (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez / MANILA BULLETIN)

World Health Organization Regional Director for Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai, left, listens as WHO Representative in the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe addresses the media at the start of the five-day annual session Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, in Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez / MANILA BULLETIN)

WHO Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said that they already deployed some of their personnel to help in the surveillance efforts.

“We are mobilizing a lot of international support, both us and Unicef are bringing in staff to help with the logistics and technical to strengthen the surveillance for possible case finding and also strengthening the response of vaccine delivery,” said Abeyasinghe in an interview.

‘We are also supporting the DOH (Department of Health), and the DOH itself is also independently recruiting many more [personnel] to support both of these efforts,” he added.

Abeyasinghe reiterated that the declaration of the polio outbreak in the country was necessary.

“The appearance of one case of polio warrants a declaration of an outbreak, so, two is more,” he said.

The WHO official believed that the polio problem have a greater impact on the poorest communities.

“In the case of polio, low vaccination coverage and limited access to good sanitation puts those communities at increased risk so they are more vulnerable,” said Abeyasinghe.

Abeyasinghe expressed optimism that the polio problem will be resolved soon.

“We are very optimistic. The government has been very proactive in its response and we believe we can bring it under control soon,” he said.

Last September 19, the health department announced the re-emergence of polio in the country, 19 years after it was declared polio-free. There have been two cases of confirmed polio, so far, which involved a three-year-old girl from Lanao Del Sur, and a five-year-old boy from Laguna.

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