Saturday Oct 16, 2021
While the rest of Pakistan is rushing to be vaccinated against the deadly coronavirus, for nomadic families the life-saving jab is still out of reach.
Nomadic herders, who move from place to place to feed their cattle, have no identity cards as they have no permanent place of residence. Pakistani citizens need to show a national identity card in order to be inoculated at vaccination centres in the country.
There is no exact number of how many nomads live in Pakistan, as no census has been conducted to determine their population, but the Grass-root Organization for Human Development (GODH), an NGO working for gypsies in Lahore, calculates there are around 10 million nomads and homeless people across the country.
Speaking to Geo.tv, Hassan Khawar, the Punjab government spokesperson, admitted that the government does not yet have any special vaccination programme for nomads and homeless communities, who do not possess an identity card. But, he added, the provincial health ministry has taken up the issue with the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the main anti-virus decision making body in the country.
Meanwhile, in Islamabad, Sajid Hussain Shah, the spokesperson of the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination, told Geo.tv that the government’s policy is very clear that everyone in Pakistan has to be protected through vaccination.
He said that the NCOC has worked with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to set up a system where temporary identity cards will be made available to those who do not have one for the purpose of vaccination.
Nazir Ahmed Ghazi, the executive director of GODH, estimates there to be at least 0.3 million gypsies in Lahore alone.
“These people work as garbage-pickers, labourers, vendors and beggars,” Ghazi said, “During marriage ceremonies and other occasions, they are employed as drummers, singers and dancers. These people must be vaccinated.”
Ghazi suggests that the government devise a special vaccination programme for the nomads, by educating them and making the vaccination process easy for them.