In what has been described as a “historic, remarkable achievement”, the government said it inoculated around 0.4 million children against nine diseases, including polio, in 45 union councils of Peshawar on Sunday – the first day of the Sehat ka Insaf campaign.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, in a message posted on Twitter, thanked the police and the party’s volunteers for “the biggest immunisation campaign including polio in Pakistan’s history.”
However, over 9,000 teachers of the district refused to take part in the campaign citing low wages and security concerns.
During a press briefing at the Peshawar Civil Officer’s Mess, Minister for Health Shaukat Yousafzai said the campaign successfully achieved its target thanks to the thousands of volunteers and the complete cooperation of parents who got their children immunised without hesitation. Even though health authorities had set a target of 50 union councils and vaccinating around 0.5 million children, officials were more or less satisfied with the campaign’s results. They said the 38,000 residents of five union councils left out on Sunday would be covered in the next drive.
The minister revealed that 12,500 hygiene kits carrying soap, water cleaning tablets, and containers for clean drinking water were distributed in 24 union councils while remaining residents will be able to receive their packages from medical camps in their respective union councils from Monday. Yousafzai explained that 1,992 teams, including 981 of PTI volunteers, took part on the first day, adding 175 teachers were also among the team.
Yousafzai said routine public life was not disturbed during the campaign, even though cell phones were suspended in specific areas for a definite period.
He said that during the campaign which started from Town-I and Town-II, volunteers went house to house and made residents aware of hygiene issues and disease prevention measures. The teams also guided residents on ways to guard against dengue.
The minister said their main focus in this historical campaign is helping guard poor households as the rich can bear treatment expenses.
Sunday was the first day of the campaign, which will extend to other districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) after covering Peshawar entirely. Sehat ka Insaf volunteers will visit homes every Sunday to immunise children against vaccine-preventable diseases and distribute health kits.
Regarding the campaign’s boycott by public teachers, the PTI minister said no one would be forced to take part in the drive and said he is even thankful to teachers who did not take part in the campaign.
Talking to The Express Tribune, All Pakistan Primary Teachers Association (APTA) President Malik Khalid said their talks with the district administration had been unsuccessful as at first the government had accepted their demands of granting a “Shuhuda Package” for teachers slain during polio vaccination campaigns but later backtracked on its decision.
He said under the compensation package, they had asked that children of deceased employees be provided jobs and female teachers not be sent to sensitive areas. Moreover, Khalid said they had demanded full security for teachers who would be vaccinating children in the safety of their respective schools and not door-to-door.
The APTA chief claimed that first the government agreed to their demands after which teachers had decided to take part in Sunday’s campaign but then officials did not keep their word, forcing them to boycott the drive. Khalid said 9,000 teachers, including 3,000 female staffers from primary, middle and high schools of Peshawar boycotted Sunday’s Sehat ka Insaf campaign.
Khalid said it is not the job of teachers to carry out risk-laden vaccination drives, adding the health department has adequate staff to get the job done.
As part of security measures, motorcycle riding was banned in the district and around 4,500 personnel of law enforcement agencies provided security to volunteers and health officials.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2014.