PESHAWAR: As more than a quarter of a million mothers and fathers turned polio vaccinators away in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) last month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and provincial health department decided to sit down and figure out their next move.
According to official figures, nine of the 63 polio cases from across the country were from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). The highest number of cases, 43, were reported from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, six from Punjab and five from Sindh. The last reported polio case was from Sahiwal, Punjab on November 12.
Since more than 119,580 children are at risk in K-P, the health department and WHO decided they would strengthen Union Councils Polio Eradication Committees at district levels in 2014.
According to Dr Kalimullah Khan, the Expanded Programme on Immunization’s (EPI) communication officer, they will set up committees to keep an eye on everything at the grass-root level.
“The monitoring committees will make sure no child under the age of five remains unvaccinated especially in high-risk areas of the province,” he said. “Peshawar district is a risky area but we have trained doctors and administrative officials. The three-day polio campaign is scheduled to start soon.” Khan added they had trained 44 union council (UC) doctors and administration officials who would participate in the next polio vaccination campaign.
While talking to The Express Tribune about who had the authority to make the UC polio committees, Khan said the decision lay with the DCO. “He also gets to decide about tehsil polio eradication committees and supervise the anti-polio campaign,” he said. “During the three-day polio campaign, daily progress reports will be viewed at the end of each day.”
An anti-polio control room will be up and running at the DCO’s office, fully equipped with a supervision plan and details of the staff on duty. Khan explained how the council’s polio committee would work. Every committee will have a medical officer, commissioner, EPI technical officer, lady health supervisor, school principal, mosque cleric and an SHO. They will be answering to the District Polio Eradication Committee which will have DCOs and other EPI officials.
“If the UC polio committee faces any trouble during the polio campaign, they will contact the district committee,” Khan said. “If their problem has not been resolved, they can get in touch with the EPI department.” He added that these committees played a vital role in eradicating polio.
Primary school teachers to boycott polio campaign
Primary school teachers and members of the All Primary Teachers Association refused to participate in anti-polio drives across K-P as they felt it was not a part of their job description.
This was decided when they met at a convention held at Balambat Educational Complex in Lower Dir on Wednesday.
According to the association’s president Malik Khalid Khan, they will not participate in future polio drives and put their lives in danger. “More than 75,000 of our teachers take part in these campaigns,” he said. “They became teachers to educate the nation, not vaccinate them.”
Bacha Muhammad, the general secretary, said it was impractical for the teachers to carry vaccines and travel for hours to remote areas. He claimed it would be better if the teachers went there to teach instead. “The health department has doctors, nurses and other technical staff to do these things,” he said. “So why should the health department’s duties be assigned to the education department.”
He did, however, add if the executive district officers, professors, college and university principals participated in the vaccination drives, the primary school teachers would also happily join.
The association’s Lower Dir president Ali Rehman claimed that when a police officer was killed in one of the polio drives his family received a Shuhada package, but the same was not true for the teachers who lost their lives in the campaign. With additional reporting by Amjid Ali Shah from lower dir.
Source: The Express Tribune