SWAT: A polio and measles campaign has been launched by the health department in Swat Valley in which 356,812 infants will be inoculated against polio while 350,391 children will be vaccinated against measles. However, 23,000 children from Upper Swat will be deprived of the vaccination because of the fragile condition of roads and poor communication systems.
“After the floods, a number of diseases have been spreading among children and women. In this regard, the health department has launched a 12-day immunisation campaign against polio and measles in the district except five union councils of Upper Swat – Utror, Kalam, Balakot, Mankyal and Bahrain due to inaccessibility,” EDO Health Dr Bakht Jamal told reporters.
“A total of 204 teams have been set up to carry out the campaign including 130 mobile teams with 74 fixed ones, the campaign will be carried out in 60 union councils out of 65,” he added. Residents of Upper Swat have criticised the exclusion by the health department saying that reaching their areas is difficult but not impossible.
“Philanthropic organisations can reach here for relief purposes with food and non-food items, yet government organisations cannot reach with a little weight of vaccines,” Mohammad Adil, a resident of Kalam, told The Express Tribune. “We will help the government in the campaign. We are needier than the others; we are already short of medicines and are at high risk.”
Zubair Torwali, an activist from the Bahrain area, told The Express Tribune in this regard, “The pretext of inaccessibility by the health department is absurd because vaccination of polio and measles does not need hard labour and large luggage to be carried to those areas. If the local people can carry heavy loads and flour sacks on their shoulders, how can the health workers not take a small cooler with light vaccines? The government health department is making excuses of inaccessibility.”
Zubair further added that the government should mobilise the local community and work together to reach everywhere. “This neglect by the health department will bring another disaster to our area. We are Pakistanis and our children have the right to be inoculated.”
“Ignoring our areas is condemnable and we will stage a protest against it,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2010.
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