PESHAWAR: The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government’s aggressive efforts to eradicate polio from the province do not seem to be in line with its rather lax policy of ensuring payment for its frontline workers.
Wages of the programme’s foot soldiers—lady health workers (LHW)—have not been paid for the past two months. In that period, one inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) and seven oral polio vaccine (OPV) campaigns have been conducted. LHWs risked their lives in these drives as they administered polio drops to children from door-to-door.
Money, no problem
An influential health official, privy to the matter, said the K-P government’s initiatives against the virus are being funded by numerous donor agencies, including the United Arab Emirates government. “The Gulf country has never delayed the issuance of funds,” he said, adding it is the bureaucratic mechanism within the country which causes the delay every few months. “What motivation do you expect from people who are not reciprocated for their hard work?” he questioned.
Passing the buck?
Another department official said funds for Peshawar, Bannu and Mardan have already been released, adding the initial delay brings about a multiplier effect across the chain of command. The official said after the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the LHW programmes should have also been devolved to the provinces. “Since that has not been done yet, the federal government took its own time to release Rs400 million for the salaries,” he said, adding the money will be disbursed soon.
When approached, Expanded Programme on Immunisation deputy director Dr Taimur Shah said arrears for 2014’s last quarter have already been paid. “The reason for delay during 2015’s first quarter is that the agreement with UAE was signed only two months ago,” he told The Express Tribune, adding the LHWs will receive their wages within a week.
The total number of cases in Pakistan in 2015 has reached 22, with nine reported in K-P, six in Federally Administered Tribal Areas, four in Sindh and three in Balochistan. Amongst K-P’s nine cases, six were confirmed in Peshawar district alone. Meanwhile 2014’s annual total stood at 303.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2015.