POLICE stop protesting dismissed community-based polio vaccinators from marching on the Governor House to seek the restoration of their services on Monday. —Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
POLICE stop protesting dismissed community-based polio vaccinators from marching on the Governor House to seek the restoration of their services on Monday. —Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: Frustrated over termination of their services under the national polio programme, a large number of vaccinators held a protest demonstration at the press club here on Monday.

This was the second protest held by the vaccinators in recent weeks.

According to officials, 4,900 community-based vaccinators employed in 89 union councils of the city have been removed from service with effect from June 1.

The decision, they said, had been taken last year in November after a review of the national programme.

At the demonstration, participants raised slogans against the government and demanded that their services be restored immediately.

Dismissal of hundreds of workers, they said, would aggravate sufferings of their families as they were already facing a hard time due to the ongoing lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The protest was called off after government officials intervened and assured them that their matter would be looked into. According to officials of the polio programme, the 4,900 sacked staff was part of the 14,000 workforce hired as community-based vaccinators through a third-party contract in Karachi. The strategy was launched in 2015 and the staff was getting a monthly salary of Rs15,000 to Rs17,000.

When contacted, a spokesperson for the provincial emergency operation centre explained that the polio programme in Pakistan was currently facing a challenging situation due to the upsurge in polio cases.

The programme, he said, had conducted several management reviews to adjust and deliver its basic core strategies for polio eradication in 2020, including programmatic review of its core operational strategy of Community Based Vaccination.

“The decision to remove community-based vaccinators from selected areas of Karachi and Peshawar was taken in last year’s review meeting participated by all stakeholders, including national and provincial officials and representatives of donor agencies.”

The meeting decided that community-based vaccinators would continue their services in areas where they were most effective at reaching out and reassuring parents and caregivers, and would be removed from areas where similar results were achieved using more resource-efficient strategies, he added.

The 4,900 workers, he said, were performing in “less high-risk areas of Karachi” and their services had been terminated to ensure “optimal use of resources”.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2020

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