The first day of the new polio drive aimed at the city’s 24 high-risk areas kicked off on Sunday when health workers administered polio vaccines to thousands of children amid tight security.
In the vaccination campaign to be held every Sunday for the next four weeks, the polio teams will go door-to-door to administer polio drops, targeting around 500,000 children of less than five years of age. The teams will be escorted by police and paramilitary soldiers.
On Sunday, as many as 5,000 personnel of police and paramilitary force were deployed in the union councils that had been declared sensitive both in terms of security and susceptibility to the polio virus. The Sindh government had imposed a 10-hour ban on motorcycle riding for Sunday, effective from 8am in the morning in the target union councils, as part of the security arrangements.
The motorcycle ban came after January 20 when pillion-riders shot dead at least three polio workers, including two women, who were carrying out a door-to-door vaccination campaign in Qayyumabad.
Karachi health executive district officer Dr Zafar Ejaz said there were general health camps, focusing especially on children and women’s issues in each of the 24 union councils. In at least four areas, the campaign started two hours after the scheduled time, which was 9am in the morning, because the security personnel supposed to escort the teams was nowhere to be seen.
Dr Ejaz termed these delays ‘strategic’ depending on the available workforce and security personnel. “There were a few highly sensitive areas, such as Islamia Colony UC-9 of SITE Town, where we strategically did not focus in the early hours,” explained Dr Ejaz. “Any untoward incident may have resulted in affecting the campaign in other areas or even calling off the campaign altogether.”
“Since schools are closed on Sunday almost all children are at home, so we were sure of maximum coverage of the vaccines,” said Syed Saifur Rehman, the Central district’s deputy commissioner, where around 42 teams had to vaccinate the target population of 6,603 children in the Shafiq Mahal UC-8 of Gulberg Town.
The government and independent health agencies’ officials will only be able to comment on the coverage and quality of the day’s campaign by Monday (today). According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global standards, any specific area’s camping is deemed satisfactory if at least 95 per cent of the children are covered.
The other designated high-risk areas across the city were Pehalwan Goth UC-10, Metroville UC-11, Gulzar-e-Hijri UC-12 and Safora Goth UC-13 of Gulshan-e-Iqbal Town; Gujro UC-4, Sinogul UC-5 and Manghopir UC-8 of Guddap Town; Gulshan-e-Ghazi UC-1, Ittehad Town UC-2, Islam Nagar UC-3 and Naal Abadi UC-4 of Baldia Town; Banaras UC-7, Qasba Colony UC-8 and Islamia Colony UC-9 of SITE Town; Rehri Goth UC-2, Bhains Colony UC-3, Quaidabad UC-4 of Bin Qasim Town; Mominabad UC-1, Haryana Colony UC-2 and Baloch Goth UC-13 of Orangi Town; Muzaffarabad UC-1 and Muslimabad UC-2 of Landhi Town; and Civil Lines UC-9 of Saddar Town.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2014.