QUETTA: Polio workers in Balochistan are not getting paid on time despite working in dangerous conditions.
In spite of clear instructions of the Balochistan chief secretary to pay the anti-polio volunteers working on the frontlines immediately, several vaccinators have complained about delayed wages.
A female polio worker based in Quetta complained she had not been paid her wages for September. “The frontline workers are supposed to be paid right after the campaign during the month,” she said.
An official of Balochistan Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), which monitors and manages the anti-polio efforts, confirmed the vaccinators were yet to be paid but refused to give any more details. “The districts will soon submit the details and the DDM cards so that the process will go on smoothly.”
The province has also been criticised at national and international level for not paying the wages of polio workers on time. Despite working in a perilous environment in Quetta and other areas of the violence-hit province, the workers are never paid on time.
The last anti-polio drive in Quetta took place on September 13 and continued for three days. Balochistan Chief Secretary Saifullah Chatta had directed the officials concerned and the partner agencies to ensure the workers were paid on time.
His directives seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
“The only reward in this perilous job is our wages, upon which our livelihood depends,” another polio worker in Quetta said.
The workers requested anonymity fearing they might be singled out and punished for speaking against the authorities.
The Balochistan government has declared a “polio emergency” throughout the province to root out the crippling virus from the region, which has reported six cases this year.
The total number of poliovirus cases reported in Pakistan this year is 34, which is considerably lower than the 214 cases reported in the first nine months of last year.
But the anti-polio drives have been marred by instances of terrorism, whereby health workers have been attacked and killed on numerous occasions.
In one of the deadliest such attacks, four health workers – one man and three women – were shot dead by assailants near Quetta in November 2014.
The next anti-polio drive in Quetta has been planned for October 10 and in 10 other districts on October 13. A successful campaign with maximum coverage might be a problem if the vaccinators remain unpaid for the previous campaign.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2015.
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