ISLAMABAD: The government has announced Rs250 million as compensation for 12,500 polio workers who were affected by the recent catastrophic floods.

In a statement, federal Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel hailed the services of polio workers, who despite suffering losses due to the catastrophic floods, continued to assist with relief activities.

“I salute your courage and passion. Despite suffering losses, you came to the aid of your fellow citizens and supported the government in flood relief operations,” he said.

The National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) has been requested to compensate the polio workers, the minister said, adding that they will “not be left alone” during the testing time.

Compensation to be paid to frontline staff; KP health dept employees demand restoration, salaries

NEOC Coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig said the first priority was polio workers as their services were invaluable.

“It was a huge task to identify the 350,000 front line staff affected by the floods and document them,” Dr Baig said, adding that the extensive exercise was conducted in all provinces to assess the impact of the floods on polio workers.

According to the assessment by the Pakistan Polio Programme, nearly 12,500 health workers were affected by the floods, with a majority in Sindh and Balochistan.

KP health workers demand restoration

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s polio workers have warned they would hold protests outside PTI chairman Imran Khan’s residences if sacked employees were not restored.

The employees of the expanded program of immunisation (EPI) have given a two-day deadline to the provincial government during a news conference at National Press Club on Sunday.

The sacked employees were health technicians in EPI, who worked at facilities treating Covid-19 patients during the pandemic.

The employees, who were a part of the KP health department, claimed they have not received salaries for the past year.

They said if their demands were not met, they would be left with no option but to hold protests outside the PTI chairman’s Banigala residence in Islamabad and Zaman Park in Lahore.

Provincial president of health technicians, Muhammad Saqib said the employees were appointed on merit and a number of workers were infected with the coronavirus.

“We are now living from hand to mouth and it has become impossible to run our houses,” he said.

Mr Saqib was accompanied by Secretary General Lal Zada and Finance Secretary Sanaullah Shunwari.

He added when they protested against dismissals for nine days in front of the provincial assembly, they were baton-charged by police.

At the same time, PTI – the party in power in KP – held a protest in the Red Zone but they were not stopped by the police, he claimed.

The speakers said the provincial government was blaming empty coffers and asked whether the sacked employees were responsible for the financial crunch.

They demanded termination letters be withdrawn and their one year’s salary disbursed at the earliest.

Poliovirus in Pakistan

According to the World Health Organisation, Pakistan, along with Afghanistan, remained the last polio-endemic country in the world. The country saw a rise in cases in 2022, with the number jumping from one case in 2021 to 20 in 2022 so far.

The KP’s southern region remained the epicentre of the virus with all 20 of the total cases reported from the region. According to official data, 17 cases were reported in North Waziristan, two in Lakki Marwat and one in South Waziristan.

Despite setbacks, global organisations have said the country’s polio eradication programme was on the right track.

Earlier this month, the United Nations Children’s Fund had expressed hope that the crippling disease will be eradicated from the country by the end of 2023.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2022

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