NeXtwork – The role and contribution of the integrated surveillance and immunization network to the COVID-19 response in the WHO South-East Asia Region (Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nepal)
This publication offers a glimpse of the chequered journey of the ‘Network’, a public health infrastructure set up with the aim of supporting polio eradication activities in the five polio-priority countries of the WHO South-East Asia Region. The Network crossed significant milestones during its journey, which commenced more than a quarter of a century ago. Firm resolve, tireless efforts and the trust and backing of governments and the people were the forces behind the historic eradication of polio from the WHO South-East Asia Region. In partnership with ministries of health, implementing partners, donor agencies and key stakeholders, including the civil society, the Network has continually provided a gamut of health services to save millions from vaccine-preventable diseases and from the consequences of natural disasters and health emergencies. In 2020, when life in the countries of the Region came to a sudden halt due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Network was in the forefront, leveraging its resources, past experience and core strengths to help governments meet the challenge. In the early phase, while the world waited for vaccines to be developed, the Network made commendable contributions to halt the spread of the disease. It extended support for testing, contact-tracing, locating hotspots, capacity-building and raising awareness. The Network’s role has expanded with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021, proving its enduring relevance to public health programmes. Thus, it is imperative to consider the sustainability of the Network to protect past investments for future gains, and to prepare for the Network’s legacy, or the NeXtwork.