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Monday Jul 29 2019

Undaunted female health worker administers anti-polio drops on a bike

Photo: File 

LAHORE: As polio cases continue to appear across Pakistan, the undaunted commitment of female polio workers is a bulwark against the latest surge in the crippling disease in the country.

Shiza Ilyas, a committed Lady Health Worker from UC-44 of Fateh Garh in Baghbanpura area in Lahore, has shown the way to achieve optimum coverage of children’s vaccination by holding door-to-door campaign on a motorcycle.

The confirmation of two more polio cases from Bannu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, has taken the tally of the total number of polio cases to 47 in Pakistan during the ongoing year 2019.

According to details, a 10-month-old Mugheesa from Bannu was confirmed with poliovirus, while a 4-year-old male child born to an Afghan national family was confirmed having contracted the virus in Quetta. “This male child was born after four girls in the family,” sources told The News.

“In view of the latest surge in polio cases in Pakistan, it is our national duty to reach out to every child to vaccinate him against polio to save our future generations from the crippling disease,” said Shiza Ilyas while talking to The News, who has taken a bold initiative to hold door-to-door campaign on a bike, which is still considered unusual generally among women and female polio workers in particular. “The appearance of new cases in Lahore this year is a major concern for polio workers and health authorities,” she added.

The LHW believes polio workers are not welcomed by people. “Sometimes they shout at us for coming again and again. I know it’s just not a call of duty, it’s a national cause and the role of polio workers is pivotal to the dream of achieving a polio-free Pakistan,” said 25-year-old Shiza, who is known for working on a motorcycle during polio campaigns.

She recalled an incident where a man came out swearing and local elders came to the rescue. She said the mothers in the area resented the teams knocking at their doors again and again. “We have to put up with insults often in the area but we know this is part of the work,” she said.

Razia Bibi, a mother to a three-year-old daughter in the Baghbanpura neighbourhood, says during campaign days, Shiza makes sure the child gets polio drops.

“It is unusual for a woman to move on a motorcycle, but it shows the commitment of the female polio workers,” she told this correspondent, adding that Shiza always reminded her of next vaccination date of her daughter.

Shiza Ilyas, however, has regretted that neither the contribution of polio workers gets recognized nor polio workers get due acknowledgement they deserve. “Answering conspiracy theories and providing counselling is the hard work,” she said, adding that LHWs get only Rs2,300 for five days’ campaign. “The life of frontline polio workers is not easy. But I know that this is worth all the hard work,” she says.

A three-day anti-polio campaign will be conducted in selected districts of Punjab on August 29 with special emphasis to vaccinate children below the age of five years, who could not get polio drops in previous campaigns.

As compared to 2017 with just eight (08) cases and 2018 with 12 polio cases registered from Pakistan and none from Punjab, the year 2019 has seen a sudden rise in polio cases, which has taken the tally to 47 in Pakistan so far.

Out of a total of 47 polio cases in Pakistan, a total of 28 cases have been confirmed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, eight cases in KP’s Tribal Districts, five cases from Punjab, three from Sindh, and three from Balochistan.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as many as 18 cases were confirmed from Bannu, 05 from Torgarh, 02 from Lakki Marwat, and 01 each from DI Khan, Hangu and Shangla. In KPTD (Tribal Districts), as many as 06 cases were confirmed from North Waziristan and 01 each from Bajaur Agency and Khyber Agency. In Punjab, 04 cases were confirmed from Lahore and 01 from Jhelum. In Sindh, 02 cases were confirmed from Karachi and 01 from Larkana. In Balochistan, one polio case each was confirmed from Kila Abdullah, Jaffarabad and Quetta. Globally, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries having polio.

Originally published in The News