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Non-payment of dues to vaccinators puts children at risk

April 05, 2013

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where the polio virus is still endemic.—File Photo

PESHAWAR: The refusal by about 10,000 health workers to take part in anti-polio drive owing to nonpayment of their stipends has put children at risk of poliomyelitis.

Officials at health department said that refusals by doctors, paramedics, technicians and volunteers to vaccinate children would adversely affect the population where the virus was circulating in water, warranting repeated vaccination of children to protect them against poliomyelitis.The introduction of direct disbursement mechanism (DDM) by World Health Organisation in June 2011 had been delaying the process of payment to the workers taking part in vaccination, they told Dawn. Under the mechanism, the health workers are paid through banks.

The health department also requested WHO in a meeting on Thursday to clear all dues of health workers to resume vaccination but the later stuck to its stance that cards were mandatory for payment to vaccinators.

The system was introduced on the directives of a former prime minister after complaint of misuse of the amount that was sent to the district health offices, which distributed the same among vaccinators.

“The new system has been working properly in other provinces but Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is very slow in following it, which is designed to put brakes on embezzlement of the money supposed to be paid to the vaccinating staff,” the officials said.

The vaccinators had not been paid for the last three months.

According to WHO, it takes just 48 hours to release payment after receipt of DDM cards, which are issued to the respective districts before every campaign and to be returned with details of bank account, identity card number etc. The cards were received late that delayed payment, it said.

Sources said that DDM cards for January 29 campaign in Peshawar, Kohat, Nowshera, Kohat, Hangu, Haripur, Lakki Marwat, Karak and Mardan were received by WHO on March 29.

Meanwhile, in a statement here on Thursday, WHO expressed concerns over nonpayment of stipends to polio teams in Peshawar, asking the government to step up the process.

It said that nonpayment of stipends was a cause of concern and the organisation urged to pay frontline health workers in battle against the crippling childhood ailment.

“We stand with the vaccinators and the frontline polio team members and will not leave any effort to ensure they gets paid,” the statement said.

They were real heroes in the effort as they put their lives at the razor’s edge to safeguard children against disability.

“It is important that the polio workers are paid on time to ensure that they are truly motivated to carry out vaccination efforts across the country,” it said.

The statement said that the newly reported positive environmental samples of P1 Poliovirus taken from the sewage water of Peshawar called for an emergency polio campaign.

“The only way to ensue that each and every child of Peshawar is protected against the crippling P1 virus, an emergency polio campaign targeting all the children under the age of five should begin at once,” it said.

Health department officials said they had started payment to workers in Peshawar district after securing loan from the government.

“The district health officers (DHOs) are made responsible to promptly process the DDM cards. According to procedure the cards are supposed to be signed by DHO in the respective district before verification that the card-holder has taken part in the campaign,” the officials said.