Security threats Polio workers refuse to go to field in Mohmand, Swabi
GHALANAI/SWABI, Dec 29: Lady health workers and other staff of anti-polio campaign have refused to carry out fieldwork in Mohmand tribal region and parts of Swabi district citing threats to their life after recent attacks on vaccination teams in Peshawar, Nowshera and Charsadda districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In Mohmand Agency, workers of 56 female polio teams have refused to go to field for vaccination.
Field supervisor Dr Shabbir Khan told Dawn in Ghalanai on Saturday that female staff of 56 polio teams in Ekkaghund, Prang Ghar and Haleemzai areas had abandoned their work due to security reasons. He said that the workers were earlier advised not to go to field after attacks on polio workers.
“The filed staff of World Health Organisation and Unicef has been advised not to go for field visits,” said Dr Khan.
He, however, said that the vaccination campaign would continue in the agency and that arrangements were being made to provide security to the workers.
The polio workers said that they had demanded of the political administration and security forces to provide security to them, otherwise they would not be able to participate in anti-polio campaign.
The number of polio cases in Fata reached 20 in 2012 after Hafsa, daughter of Hameedullah, a resident of Pandiali tehsil, was diagnosed positive for the crippling disease. Sources in health department said that the child was infected by P1 type of virus that originated from Afghanistan. They said that the presence of virus among vaccinated children was a cause of concern for them.
In Swabi, lady health workers and other polio campaign staff said on Saturday that they would not resume their duty till provision of proper security to them during the upcoming three-day polio vaccination drive, commencing on January 14.
The LHWs and other staff said that their seniors had already met with district coordination officer Mohammad Shah to convey their reservations about the security situation. They said that there was danger to their lives if they go to field.
“My family will not allow me to participate in polio campaign in the prevailing situation,” said an LHW. “If we resume duty our families will turn against us and if we refuse then we might lose the source of our livelihood,” said another LHW, requesting anonymity.
The polio campaigners alleged that the relevant authorities were reluctant to provide them the required security cover. They said that each area in-charge was receiving Rs270 and each LHW and other staff member Rs250 daily, and that there was no point in putting one’s life at risk for such a nominal payment.
When contacted, Swabi police officers said that they did not have enough staff to provide security to the entire polio campaigners. However, they said that they had offered to depute mobile police teams in different regions to ensure security to the polio workers.
When contacted, EPI official Dr Riaz said that they were covering the areas left by the LHWs. Answering a question, he said that they were making preparations for the upcoming three-day campaign and its monitoring.