ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI, Dec 20: Local authorities of Islamabad and the Rawalpindi district extended their anti-polio campaigns for two more days to reach thousands of children who were missed or their parents refused the polio drops during the formal campaign that concluded on Thursday.
They decided to push ahead with their efforts despite the threats from obscurantist elements, who killed eight polio workers during the three-day campaign, to save hundreds of thousands of children from the crippling disease.
Called the Sub-National Immunisation Day (SNID), the campaign targeted 11.5 million children across the country, focusing on those living in high-risk slum areas.
In the national anti-polio campaigns, the vaccinators have to reach 34 million children to immunise them against the polio virus.
Islamabad was estimated to have 105,000 children living in high-risk areas. Some 4,000 of them were missed during the campaign.
They were not found at home when vaccination teams visited the city slums.
Over 110 parents in the Afghan Basti in sector I-11 and slums dwelled by migrants from the tribal areas, refused the drops to their children, according to the Capital Development Authority which conducted the immunisation programme with the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration.
“They called the vaccination ‘haram’ and un-Islamic,” a CDA official told Dawn.
Fear factor also contributed to missing the children. Frightened by the senseless killing of their colleagues in Karachi and in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, female vaccinators hesitated to go to such places as Bari Imam and Rawat areas of Islamabad and Gujar Khan in the Rawalpindi district.
However, health officials succeeded in persuading the families of some of the female workers to allow them visit Gujar Khan.
Data shared by an official at the Prime Minister's Polio Cell showed that over 480 vaccinators are working in the urban and 242 in the rural areas of Islamabad.
A vaccinator refusing to share his name told Dawn: “I will not risk my life in Bari Imam after seeing my fellows killed for doing a good work”.
Deputy Commissioner Aamir Ali Ahmed has promised to provide “foolproof security” to the vaccination teams during the two days that the campaign has been extended. Regular and plain-clothed police will be there on their vaccination rounds Friday and Saturday.
Rawalpindi District Coordinating Officer Saqib Zafar said that most of the refusal cases were reported from army-run schools but he managed to immunise the children.
“I visited the Station Commander with the suggestion either allow us to administer the anti-polio vaccine to the schoolchildren or call the military hospital staff to do that. The garrison administration agreed that we do it,” he told Dawn.