250 LHWs refuse to take part in polio drive
RAWALPINDI, Dec 26: Terrified by the murders of nine vaccinators last week, more than 250 lady health workers (LHW) in the garrison city have dissociated themselves from the three-day short interval additional dose (SIAD) campaign for polio immunisation starting in 63 union councils of the district from Thursday.
“LHWs will not take part in the campaign in three districts of Punjab — Rawalpindi, Lahore and Faisalabad — even in police protection as we cannot put our lives at risk,” said All Pakistan Lady Health Workers Welfare Association Chairperson Bushra Araeen told Dawn.
After the killing, majority of the vaccinators in this part of the country had refused to take part in SIAD campaign without police protection.
Replying to a question, Bushra Araeen said that the local administrations of three districts in Punjab were pressurising the women health workers to work but they would not put their lives at risk.
Asia Ahmad, a woman health worker, said she would not go to administer polio drops to children although the local administration was forcing her to do so.
“My family is not allowing me to put my life at risk,” she said.
However, Executive District Officer (Health) Dr Zafar Iqbal Gondal has refused to buy the claim of Bushra Araeen.
He said: “The LHWs in the district will work according to the government directions or else disciplinary action will be taken against them.”
He said that the SIAD campaign would start in the 63 union councils of the district as per schedule for which the district health department had made arrangements.
He said the health department had lined up 300 nurses from Rawalpindi Medical College and 700 staff from education, agriculture, civil defence and labour departments to run the campaign effectively.
The EDO health said the polio teams would be provided with police protection.
“We have asked local police to provide 600 policemen for the protection of 1,168 vaccinators in the district for SIAD campaign,” said DCO Saqib Zafar, while talking to Dawn.
To a question, he said that the campaign would start in high risk union councils of the district.
The EDO maintained that a total of 168,000 children would get anti-polio drops during the campaign.
He said that the report of sewage samples for November was received from World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday which had declared Rawalpindi as polio free district.
Earlier, Regional Police Officer (RPO) Capt (retired) Mohammad Zubair refused to spare 600 policemen for the polio campaign, citing former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s death anniversary as main reason.
He said majority of the police force would be doing security duty on December 27.
He, however, agreed to call police force from other districts.