One of the key markers on the global journey towards eradication of poliovirus is certification, the formal verification of a region as polio-free. Last month, that marker got a digital upgrade.
Following the resolution passed at the World Health Assembly in 1988 to eradicate polio, the Global Certification Commission was established to lead the formal process for certifying regions as polio-free.
In 1995, WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region established the Regional Commission of Certification (RCC). The RCC comprises public health and scientific experts who independently review and assess country data and documentation of activities and reports submitted by the national committees on polio eradication for all countries in the Region.
The RCC serves an important purpose: it reviews the annual certification reports submitted by countries in the Region to identify gaps in polio-free countries and recommends appropriate risk mitigation measures. It also works closely with the National Certification Committees (NCCs) and other groups, and reviews progress towards certification of polio eradication and to containment of laboratory stocks of poliovirus.
Each year, the RCC meets with members of the NCC from countries in the Region, stakeholders from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and ministries of health to review the epidemiological situation, progress and submits recommendations to countries.
In May, the RCC met for its 36th meeting in Dubai. Speaking at the event, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Al-Mandhari expressed appreciation for the efforts of the RCC to support polio eradication in the Region. “I am pleased to inform you that as a result of your efforts, 20 out of the 22 countries in our Region had achieved the required standards for poliomyelitis certification. With significant gains in the last 2 endemic countries of our Region, we are closer than ever to eradicating polio.”
This year, The RCC had reviewed reports from Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The reports had been provisionally accepted pending revision based on RCC comments. For Afghanistan and Pakistan, their progress reports were reviewed and noted by the RCC.
During the meeting, the RCC endorsed the new Electronic Annual Certification Reporting (e-ACR) system, effectively taking the system out of beta status and moving it into established practice and agreed for certification reports to be submitted through this system prior to the 37th RCC meeting in 2023.
The e-ACR, as a recommendation from the RCC during the 33rd meeting in 2019, was developed as a web-based system to mimic the offline workflow, including submission, review, approval and archiving of reported data within the annual certification reports. It allows for customized and structured data entry that will help users to easily retrieve data for comparison and analysis with reports from previous years – a process that previously was reliant on records kept in multiple separate systems, or even paper records.
Following the software development, 65 participants representing the RCC, NCCs and ministry of health focal persons from 13 countries were trained in 2 separate sessions in May and June 2022. Feedback and recommendations from these trainings are being incorporated into the e-ACR system. A third training is scheduled for September 2022 for representatives from the 9 remaining countries in the Region.
The introduction of the innovative e-ACR system makes the Region to be one of the leading among other WHO regions in digital archive of all certification reports. This system not only facilitates easy retrieval of data but also allows for the next generation of disease eradicators to learn from the experience of certification and the process of polio eradication.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean.