QUETTA: Without the support of print and electronic media the battle against polio virus cannot be won. Media’s support is needed to re-launch the anti-polio vaccination campaign which was earlier halted because of rumours leading to thousands of refusals from Peshawar to Chaman.

These thoughts were articulated on Wednesday by Dr Aftab Kakar of Unicef and WHO at a seminar discussing the role and responsibility of media towards eradication of polio virus in Pakistan.

Last month, amid serious security threats and increasing attacks on polio workers in different parts of the country, the federal government suspended the anti-polio campaign “for an indefinite period”. The nationwide campaign was launched in all districts of the country on April 22.

Senior journalist Shahzada Zulfiqar said media owners should create awareness campaigns regarding importance of polio vaccine other than global health organisations such as WHO and Unicef. “By taking up anti-polio drives as a national cause media can avert hearsay and highlight positive image of polio vaccine within society. Every individual has a responsibility in eradicating polio virus from Pakistan.”

Sajida Mansoor of WHO Islamabad claimed that thousands of news stories were reported over Peshawar and Chaman incidents which also included negative ones.

“We have observed that in the race for breaking news, we always misreport information regarding polio refusal or vaccination but without confirming or carrying out research we shouldn’t publish or air any news because it might be detrimental to nationwide anti-polio drives,” she said.

Masooma Qurban of Unicef Quetta urged provincial print and electronic media to become a shield against rumours over polio vaccine.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2019