Wheat harvesting hurdle for polio workers

Published: May 1, 2019
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PHOTO: REUTERS

PHOTO: REUTERS

MULTAN: Apart from the usual troubles that plague polio campaigns, this year’s drive uncovered another major hurdle in the battle to inoculate children from the crippling disease.

Wheat crops are harvested from late March until mid-June. In order to complete this strenuous task, farming families typically spend majority of the day toiling away in the fields. This is the reality of several daily wage workers in Multan, Khanewal, Bhakkar and Dera Ghazi Khan.

This means that when polio workers come knocking, there’s usually no one at home. As a result, polio workers and teams have to go the extra mile, literally, in order to vaccinate children.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Multan District Health Authority CEO Dr Munawwar Abbas said that daily wage labourers are usually busy in the fields when workers are making the rounds. This poses a great challenge in completing targets for the polio drive.

“Further, warmer climates and remote areas make it difficult to maintain an ideal temperature for the vaccines, which is between zero degree Celsius and 10 degree Celsius,” he explained. In temperatures higher than this, the vaccine loses its efficacy, he added.

The official also appreciated the dedication of female polio workers who trek to wheat fields in order to inoculate children against polio.

Ayesha Bibi, a polio worker in Jalalpur Peerwala says that polio workers lug around heavy ice boxes through fields and remote areas in order to maintain a desirable temperature for the polio vaccines.

“Many children are not vaccinated during the campaign because they are not at home. Such children are then vaccinated during the follow up campaigns,” she said.

Another polio worker, Saima Naureen, says that many of the workers suffer from respiratory issues as a result of inhaling dust from the grains. “However, at the end of the day protecting the lives of innocent children is my greatest concern,” she stated.

District Monitoring Officer Nasir Shehzad Dogar revealed that the five-day polio campaign in Multan concluded on April 26. Meanwhile the follow-up campaign concluded on April 30. A total of 1,867 mobile teams, 196 facility teams and around 140 health teams were constituted to vaccinate 896,826 children below five-year-old.

More than 134 medical officials were directed to remain present at a union council level during the whole drive, he stated.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2019.

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