1 May 2007The high-level United Nations-backed body tasked with overseeing the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year reconstruction blueprint for the war-ravaged country, said today that since its inaugural meeting last year, the implementation of the plan – which aims to bolster security, economic development and counter-narcotics efforts – is on track. However, the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) also noted that while the Compact is capitalizing on momentum to meet both short and long-term goals, it is necessary to translate these efforts into meaningful changes for a majority of Afghans.“Last year was successful,” said Ishaq Nadiri, JDMB co-chair, professor and senior economic adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, referring to the problem-solving mechanism established and implemented. “We are glad that there is progress to report, but we must focus more energy on implementation to ensure that this progress soon becomes more evident on the ground.”He added that the Compact’s success was challenged unexpectedly by the unstable security situation in the south and south-east of the country.Meeting at the Afghan capital Kabul, the body welcomed increased commitments to meet the country’s most pressing needs. The number of Afghanistan National Police officers has been raised temporarily to 82,000, and enhanced coordination on energy issues has yielded beneficial results. In addition, the Government and its partners have made progress in attaining the benchmarks of the Compact, which was adopted last January.In terms of short-term targets, successes include the functionality of the National Assembly, the start of Government discussions with its partners on investment in natural resource harvesting and the coming into effect of four key laws regarding investment and the private sector.Regarding longer-term benchmarks, the JCMB reported that school enrolment has surged 12 per cent to 5.4 million students, of whom 35 per cent are girls. Over 80 per cent of Afghans now have access to basic health services, while 132 million square metres of land has been cleared of mines since last March.“In healthcare, in education, in community projects, in microfinance, in government revenue collection, in the modernization of the Afghan National Army – in each of these areas and many others we are moving forward,” said Tom Koenigs, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and JCMB co-chair.“But now, as the Afghanistan Compact enters its second year, we must look beyond this room and devote our attention to ensuring that the JCMB and its associated consultative mechanisms produce even more tangible outputs and visible action.”In another development, the head of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) met with President Karzai to discuss how to stamp out polio, once and for all in Afghanistan, which is one of the four remaining countries yet to eradicate polio.WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan met with President Karzai at the Arg, or Presidential Palace, in Kabul yesterday to discuss the next steps to stop the spread of the disease, including how to reach migrant, nomadic and displaced children so they can receive the vaccine.“Afghanistan can win the polio race,” President Karzai told Dr. Cho. “As we rebuild our country, we will ensure that no Afghan child will ever again be paralyzed by this terrible disease.”Afghanistan, which recently vaccinated over 7 million children against the disease, is the only country among those still affected by polio to not have reported any cases since last November.Dr. Chan’s visit is the first leg of a two-part journey to Afghanistan and Pakistan to encourage joint efforts to curtail polio transmission, which straddles the long and porous border between the countries, which are considered a single “block of transmission.”She also conferred with President Karzai on synchronizing plans with Pakistan to curb transmission of polio. Although Afghanistan has been polio-free so far this year, Pakistan has reported cases which are genetically related to the virus detected in Afghanistan last year.During her stop in Afghanistan, Dr. Chan met with NATO and the International Security Assistance Force to investigate ways of negotiating pauses in the fighting to allow medical workers to vaccinate children, since the security situation in the southern region of the country and in areas bordering Pakistan makes it hazardous for health professionals to operate.“Days of Tranquillity and a sense of security for health workers are indispensable for Afghanistan to protect its children from polio and to lead the world towards the complete eradication of this disease,” Dr. Chan said.Last year, the country reported 31 cases of polio, up from just nine in 2005, and most of the new cases were in the Southern Region.Afghanistan still needs almost $20 million to meet its immunization needs for 2007 and 2008.The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a worldwide effort spearheaded by WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Rotary International and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was launched in 1988 when over 125 countries were impacted by polio.