This report presents the findings of the Communication Review panel, conducted for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Pakistan on behalf of the national polio eradication programme. The panel worked in 4 teams to cover 4 areas of communication and social mobilisation: mass media; interpersonal communication and community engagement; high-risk groups; and monitoring and evaluation. The panel received full briefing on programme and epidemiological status as at April 2012, before deploying to conduct brief province and sub-province level field consultations.
In general terms, the review found that the significant increase in polio communication capacity over the past several months prior to the review, and the momentum this is creating within the programme, are positive and provide "the strongest and most comprehensive communication platform the programme has ever had." Foundations have been built for: focused community mobilisation through COMNet (a UNICEF-funded project to increase awareness of polio immunisation in the highest-risk areas); a mass media campaign capable of reaching high-risk populations; training to strengthen interpersonal communication (IPC) skills for frontline workers; strategy to identify and reach high-risk and mobile populations more effectively; a significant new capacity to collect and analyse social data to pinpoint contextual factors at the local level obstructing or supporting better programme performance; and a stronger emphasis on monitoring and evaluation communications and social mobilisation initiatives with regard to their contribution to the programme as a whole. However, "much of this capacity remains new, and it is too early to see the impact of many of the strategies and initiatives that are guiding implementation. Equally, there is still considerable room for improvement, some critical gaps and areas where urgent action is required." The following are key summary observations found to be common across all or the majority of the 4 review teams' experiences:
- "Central to improving performance in the partnership is improvement in coordination and close collaborative working of key programme partners (primarily WHO [World Health Organization] and UNICEF) under the aegis and leadership of the Government of Pakistan (GoP), and with the backing of global donors. There remains room for improvement in this - a situation widely acknowledged to be remediable with some simple measures including, for example, more regular, systematic and frequent meetings...
- On the mass media front, UNICEF now has the resources to fulfill its mandate as lead for programme communication but will not be able to fully step into that role without further development of media relations and a greater emphasis on coordinating the programme's communication response.
- In relation to front-line teams (including both vaccinators and local COMNet social mobilisers), there is an urgent need to strengthen interpersonal communication (IPC) skills yet the training and related materials are yet to be rolled out.
- A high risk group strategy is in place and is beginning to demonstrate early signs of impact but it has yet to reach full capacity in the critical province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Further, transit points need to be placed more strategically...
- There is a very good new system (PRIME) being developed for gathering and analyzing social data. However, the system should be focused on answering one core programme question - why are children being missed. Further, this analysis should be produced and fed back into operational planning....And social data should be combined with operational and epidemiological data to produce a single shared analytical picture of programme performance..."
A number of recommendations are presented in a chart organised according to each of the 4 review groups and different levels of focus. For example, the mass media review group suggested that, at the national level, the polio programme should focus on building media relationships and strengthening journalist Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) knowledge and reporting capacity through media workshops, take-away media packs, and more media events prior to immunisation rounds. Also recommended is that a media crisis plan be developed that includes supporting materials. Further ideas include: "Ensure government is the leading voice on polio. Improve coordination between partners through editorial meetings, aligning media and communication plans and improving staff training on EPI and communication to improve partner relations."
Email from Chris Morry to The Communication Initiative on July 9 2012.