Over 50,000 lady health workers (LHWs) threatened to boycott the anti-polio campaign on Thursday if their salaries and wage arrears were not paid by the Punjab government.
Lady health workers, who have not been paid for the last two months, also asked the government to pay their July salaries before Eid. If the government fails to do so, they said they would stage a protest outside the provincial assembly on Eid day. They demanded that Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif listen to their pleas and help resolve their salary issues before Eid.
Rukhsana Anwar, head of the LHW Programme Association in Punjab, told The Express Tribune that salaries had not been paid for the month of May and June this year. She said the officials concerned have told them that the federal health ministry has not yet released the amount for their salaries, she claimed.
“Even after being regularised by the Supreme Court in July 2012, we still struggle for our rights. Getting paid on time is one of the biggest challenges we are facing,” she said.
It is not unusual for lady health workers to get their salaries following a delay of two to three months. Sometimes they do not get it even on the occasion of Eid.
“There are many LHWs who are the sole bread earners of their families and now they all are forced to starve. Their near and dear ones have stopped giving them financial support as they cannot return the money they had borrow from them earlier,” she said.
“Many among us are unable to buy new clothes for our children ahead of Eid as we lack the money to feed them,” she said.
“This government claims that it is working for the welfare of the poor and empowering women of this country. Unfortunately, it seems like that their commitments are not for us, who are the backbone of the healthcare system,” she said.
Abida Bibi, one of the LHWs living in Multan, is a widow and a mother of four children.“Now I am not left with even a single penny to buy food for my children. I feel helpless,” she said.
The Express Tribune tried to contact additional director general at the Integrated reproductive Mother, neonatal and child health programme Punjab Dr Ijaz Ahmad Sheikh. He had earlier refused to talk claiming that he was in a meeting. Later he switched off his cell phone.
Meanwhile, Dr Baseer Achakzai, who is responsible for LHWs at the federal level, claimed that the Planning Commission had already released amounts to the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination (NHSRC).
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2015.