Yet another setback: Polio workers refuse to vaccinate in Landikotal

Political administration had decided to launch the campaign on Jan 6.

Political administration had decided to launch the campaign on Jan 6.

LANDIKOTAL: The anti-polio drive in Khyber Agency suffered another setback when workers associated with the campaign refused to conduct a vaccination drive in Landikotal on Thursday.

Political administration officials along with the health department had decided to launch a campaign on January 6, but it was postponed when supervisors in the tehsil refused to take part in the drive due to security concerns.

A campaign supervisor from Zakha Khel area of Landikotal sub-division said officials are forcing them to launch an immunisation drive in the agency, but they were not provided any security despite the deteriorating law and order.

“They are launching the campaign just to take funds from donor agencies at the cost of our lives,” he said. While it is not confirmed as to how many children will be affected by polio it is nevertheless confirmed that many families will be deprived of breadwinners at the hands of militants, he added.

Another campaign supervisor also said they cannot start the drive on January 6 because the administration is unable to provide sufficient security.

He added they had a meeting with Agency Surgeon Dr Sameen Shinwari where around 150 Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) and polio workers refused to take part in the campaign. Only 20 agreed to work and that too because their duties were in relatively peaceful areas.

Another worker alleged action is taken against them if they (polio workers) do not take part in campaigns because “authorities are receiving huge funds in the name of vaccination drives from the government and foreign donors.” But if we do take part in the campaign we are targeted by militants, he said. “My parents have prohibited me to take part in any vaccination campaign.”

Dr Shinwari confirmed the meeting with supervisors and said they were chalking out a schedule for the vaccination campaign and hoped the administration would soon devise a plan to do away with workers’ issues. “We have to vaccinate children against this disease,” he claimed.

Dr Shinwari said the refusal came after the recent killings. On December 13, 2013, a polio worker was gunned down by militants when he was administering drops to infants in Naye Abadi area of Jamrud, while on December 21 a supervisor was killed by armed men in Ghundai area of Jamrud after which workers refused to take part in the on-going campaigns.

Basic training for immunisation drives was given to 200 khasadar officials last week, but they too were reluctant to take part in the campaign. Khasadars said they were confused as to whether their job is to combat militancy or vaccinate children against polio.

Source: The Express Tribune

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