KARACHI: A major anti-polio campaign was launched on Monday to vaccinate nine million children across the province, including two million in Karachi.
“Parents must avail this opportunity for the sake of their children’s future and save them from disability,” said Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, who formally inaugurated the drive.
Under the current campaign, organised by the Emergency Operation Centre for Polio (EOCP), children under five years of age will be administered anti-polio drops in 29 districts of Sindh from January 11 to 17.
Children between six months and 59 months will also receive Vitamin A drops.
According to a spokesperson for the EOCP, the vaccination staff is ensuring strict compliance with the WHO-recommended Covid-19 prevention protocols during the campaign.
These safety measures include wearing of face masks and use of sanitisers during field visits, checking temperature of workers before their deployment and maintaining social distancing in interaction.
Hyderabad Commissioner Abbas Baloch launched the drive at the Tando Allahyar Civil Hospital. He directed the district administration and health officials to ensure that not a single child was left in the coverage during the five-day campaign.
“The campaign would address the immunisation gap created by the pandemic from March to July. If we continue with the same momentum, we will soon see significant results,” he said, emphasising that the nation must ensure childhood immunisation as it dealt with the pandemic.
He said that polio teams’ activity should be monitored, warning that no laxity would be tolerated in this regard.
As many as 30 polio cases were reported in Sindh in 2019.
He said the teams should reach every household, and asked the district administrations to expedite the pace of awareness campaign as well within their respective areas.
Tando Allahyar district health officer briefed the officials concerned about the campaign’s details, saying that it was started as part of the national immunisation drive (NID).
The Hyderabad deputy commissioner is monitoring the drive in this district.
Meanwhile, Jamshoro’s Additional Deputy Commissioner-I Ali Zulfiqar Memon inaugurated the campaign at the Bilawal Medical College, Kotri. He emphasised the need for meeting targets of the campaign.
In this NID, around 1.8m children would be vaccinated in Hyderabad division, 1.15m in Sukkur, 1m in Shaheed Benazirabad, 1.4m in Larkana and 742,000 in Mirpurkhas division, according to the EOCP spokesperson.
Villagers boycott drive
Residents of about two dozen villages of Sindhri taluka in Mirpurkhas district have announced that they would not allow anti-polio teams to enter their houses or localities.
They have long been demanding that rainwater be cleared from their areas but no such measures have been taken as yet.
After holding a series of demonstrations at different places soon after the August 2020 rains and flooding, they had warned that they would boycott anti-polio campaigns until their areas were cleared of stagnant rainwater.
On Monday, a large number of villagers held another demonstration in a village next to the Phuladiyoon town of Sindhri taluka and raised slogans against the administrations of the town, taluka and district for their indifferent attitude towards the issue.
Participants in the demonstration said that not only the rainwater had restricted their movement from one place to the other, but the conditions were causing waterborne diseases, mosquito invasion and posing a threat of drowning to the lives of their children.
They pointed out that the thatched houses of many villagers were badly damaged and some had even washed away in the rains rendering them homeless. Since August last year, many families had been living under the open sky or in makeshift huts and camps, they said, adding that harsh winters had made their lives even more miserable.
They told local reporters that over 20 villages, including Malook Pahore, Jalal Mangrio, Alam Pahore, Murad Samejo, Abdul Rahim Pahore, Abdul Hai Halepota and Sarwar Pathan were still under rainwater but the district administration had taken no step to clear the area despite the fact that a number of complaints had been made to it over the period.
They reiterated that their boycott of anti-polio campaign would continue till their demand was met.
Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2021