UNICEF proposal: Anti-polio media to become more Pakhtun-centric

Government ready to localise communication strategy. PHOTO: AFP

Government ready to localise communication strategy. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Pakhtun-dominated areas pose the biggest challenge to polio eradication efforts in Pakistan and to counter it the government, along with its international partners, has planned to devise a localised communication strategy.

“There will be a strategic shift in 2014 to integrate Pakhtun social norms in to all components of communication strategy with a focus on reaching key tribes,” said a UNICEF report.

The UNICEF disclosed the revised communication plan in a presentation given to the Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Ayesha Raza Farooq.

The Extended Programme on Immunization (EPI) National Programme Manager Dr Rana Muhammad Safdar, who is also coordinator for the PM polio cell said it remained a fact that the polio teams faced various issues to vaccinate children in Pakhtun-dominated areas across Pakistan.

“In Peshawar alone there are 50 high-risk areas in terms of security where the polio teams cannot go,” Dr Safdar said.

According to the copy of Unicef presentation available with The Express Tribune, the plan would include amplifying Pakhtun voices in national media discourse and minimise Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) voices.

Unicef suggested re-profiling the vaccinators and frontline workers as protectors of children among others.

Alarming figures

It further revealed that in 2013, almost 90% of polio cases were reported from Pakhtun families of this 83% were from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and the rest from other parts of the country such as Karachi, Mianwali and Sheikhupurat.

Polio cases were reported from five Pakhtun tribes which include 40% from Wazir, 34% from Afridi, 9% from Mohmand, 6% from Dawar and 2% from Kakar. Besides this 50% of national refusals were reported from K-P and 25% from Karachi.

Besides this since June 2013 a total of 290,000 children under the age of five missed polio drops.

Taliban ban

The sources further said that the PM Polio Monitoring Cell throws the blame on the Fata authorities for their failure to lift the ban imposed by Taliban on immunisation.

Almost 60 of the 85 polio cases during 2013 belong to Fata whereas 32 of the 60 cases from Fata belong only to North and South Waziristan.

Sources said all the polio virus reported from other parts of the country, excluding K-P and Fata, were genetically linked with the virus in Fata and K-P.

K-P government along with international partners is working to devise a localised communication and operational plan specifically for Peshawar district which has been declared as an international reservoir of polio virus.

Source: The Express Tribune

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