Addressing the legacy of polio in Tajikistan

Most of the victims of the 2010 polio outbreak in Tajikistan were children, many of whom have developed physical impairments that require long-term rehabilitation care. In partnership with Ministry of Health, WHO initiated a disability rehabilitation programme to address the needs of this group, and in March 2014 with the technical support of the WHO Country Office, rehabilitation camps were organized to assess their current needs and develop appropriate intervention plans. Technical assistance was also provided to guide the country in strengthening appropriate service providers.

These camps were organized in strategic locations in 30 severely polio-affected districts in the southwestern region of Tajikistan. Approximately 300 children were recommended for physiotherapy, orthoses and other assistive devices (such as walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs), and a further 77 children were recommended for surgical operations. However, if the urgently needed rehabilitation interventions are not provided now, the need for surgery among these children will increase within the next few years.

An interesting finding was that more upper limb involvement was observed than in prior reports of polio epidemics since 1951. Upper limb rehabilitation and surgery require specialized knowledge, skills and experience, making these cases even more challenging.

During the camps, each accompanying parent/guardian was informed about their child’s current situation, prognosis and rehabilitation needs. In addition, the Ministry’s accompanying assessment team was trained on polio rehabilitation assessment, development of individual rehabilitation and follow-up planning and rehabilitation techniques.

Based on the findings of the camps, follow-up support plans are being developed to further meet the children’s rehabilitation needs and contribute to improvement of their quality of life.