Safety or health? LHWs to boycott polio campaign after Tuesday’s attacks

Published: January 22, 2014
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A health worker administers polio drops to a child in Swat as an armed security personnel keeps watch. PHOTO: ONLINE

A health worker administers polio drops to a child in Swat as an armed security personnel keeps watch. PHOTO: ONLINE

PESHAWAR: Following three separate attacks in one day on polio teams in Manshera, Karachi and Punjgur in Balochistan on Tuesday, polio workers in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa announced a boycott of the vaccination campaign in the province.

At least four campaign workers were killed in the shootings. Later in the day, a meeting of lady health workers (LHWs) was held in Peshawar in which LHW supervisors from various districts participated.

It was decided LHWs would boycott the current polio campaign in 22 districts of K-P. Additionally, the health workers demanded the government heighten security during vaccination drives.

 photo AyeshaHassan_zps99b4625a.jpg

Ayesha Hassan, the district supervisor for Peshawar told The Express Tribune, “After the incidents in Manshera and Karachi, we have decided to not participate in the current and future drives.”

According to Hassan, LHW supervisors, Alveen Bibi from Mardan, Shakeela from Swabi, Sakina from Charsadda and Zakiya from Nowshera attended the meeting and have informed workers across the province of the decision. She added supervisors from Karachi and Multan were also contacted to discuss the situation and they had agreed to boycott as well.

Paper bullets

“LHWs are only paid Rs1,000 for the four days of a polio campaign, while supervisors are paid Rs2,700. We are not prepared to risk our lives for the sake of such a small sum,” said Hassan.

She added LHWs were not satisfied with the current security measures and the government should impose curfew in areas where they carry out polio drives.

Demanding more security, the supervisor warned workers would resign if the government fails to address their issues. Incidentally, an official of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) claimed the polio worker gunned down in Manshera was killed over a family dispute and had nothing to do with the drive.

The EPI official further said 5,189,293 children will be vaccinated in the drive planned for K-P’s 22 districts. At least 13,621 mobile teams, 1,556 fixed teams and 775 transport teams will participate.

However, the drive has been postponed in Peshawar, Chitral and Haripur because of security concerns and snowfall,” the official added.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2014.

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