Health experts emphasise media's role in spreading polio awareness

Journalists urged to report positively instead of creating hype.

Our Correspondent February 28, 2014

KARACHI: Health experts believe that the role of the media is crucial when it comes to reporting on polio, for if done effectively, it can help understand where the problems actually exist.

This was the consensus at the one-day training held for journalists on reporting polio. The event, held at the Pearl Continental Hotel on Thursday, was organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the Extended Programme on Immunization (EPI) Sindh and the World Health Organization.

Explaining the precarious situation and threats of polio cases in different parts of the country, especially in Karachi and Peshawar, experts urged that it was the need of the hour to involve all the people of Pakistan to save the country’s future.

“Pakistan’s position was much better than India in 2010 and the neighbouring country has almost overcome the situation. We can do it too,” stressed Dr Iqbal Ahmad Memon, the president of Pakistan Pediatric Association Centre. “The EPI centres should be visible and accessible to the general public as they could voluntarily visit them.”

Appreciating the government’s efforts and responsibility, Dr Memon said that Rs17,000 to Rs18,000 are being spent on each child, saying that over 98 per cent of the issue has been resolved across the world since 1988 due to vaccination.

“If there is no polio case reported for three consecutive years, it means that the country is polio-free,” he said.

Dr Durenaz Jamal, the EPI Sindh’s deputy programme manager, admitted that 2013 was not a good year for Sindh.

“At least ten polio positive cases surfaced and all possible efforts are being taken to overcome the situation this year,” said Dr Jamal.

Briefly elaborating on the situation across the province, Dr Jamal said that the Sindh government was seriously considering replicating the polio drive in Peshawar.

“Eight cases were reported in Karachi in 2013 as compared to zero case in 2012 and nine cases in 2011,” she briefed.

“The responsibility of the media is very important and without understanding the issue, reporting on sensitive issues like polio is very difficult,” said Badar Alam, the editor of Herald magazine. He advised participants not to rely on single sources, saying to be accurate, brief and clear on every story.

Tahira Yasmeen, a social worker who works in Karachi’s high risk area, Gadap, appealed to the media to report positively instead of creating hype. “This will only disturb our efforts. We need to take extra care when reporting polio stories.”

An office bearer of the Rotary International, Asher, said that his organisation was involved in polio eradication tasks in various parts of the country, including the country’s borders as well as Sindh’s.

According to him, the implementation plan was being enforced in Sindh’s Mirpurkhas, Karachi’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal Town, as well as Peshawar, Nowshera, Quetta, Loralai and Turbat.


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