ISLAMABAD: Security for polio vaccination teams in the capital is on red alert in light of fatal attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the last two days.
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammad Aamir Zulfikar Khan declared the ‘red alert’ for polio teams and workers after two police officials in Bannu and Buner were killed on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat also called for an immediate response in case of any tense situation or emergency involving polio workers, or in case of any disturbance in areas visited by polio vaccination teams.
Response to teams ‘not encouraging’ in capital; parents in parts of Pindi want to wait
The IGP told Dawn that security for polio teams was increased to the red alert level because of the killings. Better equipped police officials are being deployed with workers and in areas to ensure teams are safe and to counter any untoward incident, he said.
All four zonal superintendents of police (SP) have been asked to supervise and monitor security measures in their areas, he added. It is difficult to provide security cover to all the teams going door-to-door because of the shortage of manpower, he said, but the utmost steps are being taken in this regard.
The capital has been divided into more than 100 sub-sectors to administer the polio vaccine to children, capital administration officials said.
Around 120 teams comprising medical staff and volunteers have been constituted to vaccine more than 300,000 children.
The polio vaccination campaign began in the capital on Tuesday and will conclude tomorrow (Friday), they said.
A senior police officer said the capital was divided into these sectors keeping in mind the force available to provide security cover. A few sectors have been declared ‘highly sensitive’ and ‘sensitive’, and extreme security measures are being taken there, he said.
The Quick Response Force will be deployed, along with Counter Terrorism Force teams which will patrol the sectors. Police teams will also be deployed, the officer said.
A capital administration officer said polio teams were facing difficulties in vaccinating children. Wednesday was the second day of the four-day campaign, and the response of parents towards polio vaccination teams – particularly in urban areas – was not encouraging, he said.
The refusal rate in rural areas was unchanged, and many parents refused to vaccinate their children, as on Tuesday. Children whose parents refuse to vaccinate them will remain unattended in the campaign, and the polio team that visited their areas will have to visit another area the next day.
Most people living along I.J. Principal Road have refused to vaccinate their children against polio, District Health Authority (DHA) CEO Dr Mohammad Rashid said on Wednesday.
He told Dawn that DHA teams faced problems in this area, where many residents were from KP and said they would allow their children to be vaccinated after seeing how other children responded to the vaccine over the next two days.Dr Rashid said vaccination teams did not have trouble in other areas, although in some they found that even when politicians and community elders were involved parents were determined to wait.
He said the authority has decided to vaccinate children in these areas in the next two or three days, adding that the drive has been successful in the city and cantonment areas.
He said prayer leaders and religious scholars have been asked to convince parents to vaccinate their children. More than 575,000 children have been vaccinated so far, and the target has been set for around 800,000 children across the district.
He said the DHA is struggling to achieve the target, and special counters have been opened at transit points. He said people need to be made aware that the vaccination is safe. — Aamir Yasin also contributed to this news story
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2019