KARACHI, Oct 13: Two days ahead of the launch of a three-day nationwide polio vaccination campaign, set to begin on Oct 15, area supervisors of the drive in Gulberg Town have threatened to boycott all anti-polio activities if the son of one of their colleagues was not recovered soon.
A number of women health workers and official vaccinators as well as area supervisors who had gathered at an official inauguration of the national immunisation days activities at the Gulberg Town health office on Saturday expressed concern over the news that a 12-year-old son of an area supervisor had been missing since Friday night from UC-8 (Shafiq Mills area) of Gulberg Town.
They demanded that the law-enforcement agencies and district administration look into the kidnapping and security matters of polio workers, otherwise they would not carry out the campaign in Gulberg Town.
The anti-polio campaign is scheduled to run from Oct 15 to 17 and about 2.28 million children up to five years of age, including 0.93 million living in Gulberg Town, are likely to be covered across the city during the immunisation days. Under the campaign plan, 52 area heads are supposed to oversee the field work by 277 mobile, fixed and transient teams in the town.
Asifa Asad, the mother of the missing boy and a Gavi-vaccinator working at a government dispensary in UC-8, told newsmen and provincial health minister Dr Sagheer Ahmad, who was also the chief guest at the inauguration, that her son (Zainul Abideen) had gone out to purchase bread at around 8pm on Friday, but never returned home and police had failed to find him.
She linked the abduction of her son to her association with the poliovirus eradication activities and said that since she took over as an area supervisor a couple of months back, she had been warned against carrying out such activities “as these have ulterior motives” and screening out the households and families living there at the behest of foreign intelligence agencies.
Ms Asad said she had been living peacefully in the UC for the past many years, but had started running into trouble after she was assigned as the role of area supervisor.
Anti-polio activities, which remained peaceful during the years, have been haunted by terrorism in the city for the past four months or so.
A three-day anti-polio campaign under the sub-national immunisation days could not be run in UC-8 of Gulberg Town due to inadequate security arrangements for polio staff in September as well, said a district health official.
The health minister, however, asked deputy commissioner, central, Dr Saifur Rehman, who was present on the occasion, to make all-out efforts to address concerns of the missing boy’s mother and other polio supervisors’ at the earliest and ensure a smooth conduct of polio vaccination.
He said it was the result of efforts of all stakeholders that the number of new confirmed polio cases was smaller than that of previous years. This year, he said, Sindh had reported only four cases and a few more quality campaigns could help eradicate the poliovirus from the province.
The minister said about 7.4 million children would be reached by about 21,342 vaccinators and volunteers across the province.
Member of the National Assembly Sufian Yousuf, provincial minister Khalid Bin Wilayat, MPA Imamuddin Shahzad, secretary of the health department Aftab Khatri, special secretary for health Dr Suresh Kumar and EDO for health Dr Imdadullah Siddiqui were also present when the health minister administered anti-polio drops to about a dozen children.