Chances that the polio vaccination campaign will take place in Khyber Agency as per schedule are looking slimmer after each development – 400 volunteers have now refused to take part in the drive. And, if earlier most of the hesitation came from daily wage volunteers, this time health department employees are also threatening to throw in the towel, The Express Tribune learnt on Monday.
Eight polio paramedics have decided to quit. They have informed health department officials about their resignation. The rest are threatening to stay away till their demands are met.
One of employees requesting not to be named, said all eight have handed in their notice to the relevant department. Khyber Agency Paramedics Association (KAPA) President Abdul Haleem confirmed the development and said they will not back down.
Agency Surgeon Sameen Jan told The Express Tribune things have become difficult for them as far as conducting anti-polio drives is concerned. He also corroborated reports of volunteers pulling out and employees quitting. Volunteers have shared their apprehensions with him, said Jan. “We cannot force them to work; eight paramedics have submitted their premature resignation letters.”
Jan went on to share field supervisor medical officer (FSMO) Dr Usman Afridi was also taking steps to get transferred from Khyber Agency. According to the agency surgeon, the anti-polio drive planned for January included 328 teams, which, by the looks of it, will be missing 400 workers and a FSMO.
More security, compensation
The agency’s paramedics held a meeting on Monday in which they decided to refrain from participating in the vaccination drive until their demands are fulfilled. These include better security and a financial compensation package for families of slain polio workers. The meeting was chaired by KAPA President Abdul Haleem.
Two polio workers have been killed in the past 10 days, emphasised Haleem. “Vaccinating children against polio in Jamrud tehsil has become an uphill task,” he said. The government should provide a financial package to heirs of the martyred workers, insisted the KAPA president.
“It is shocking that the government is yet to take solid steps to provide security to polio workers in the face of growing threats to vaccinators, even when they know the next drive is right round the corner in January. The government should also announce employment for family members of those killed, and an amount for compensation.”
Security to paramedics and volunteers is only provided during polio inoculation campaigns. They are left in the lurch once the drive ends, leaving them exposed to threats, explained Haleem. Polio workers have formed a negotiation committee for talks with the administration, he added.
An official of the health department confirmed these developments came to the fore after recent killings of polio workers in Khyber Agency.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2013.