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Polio drive in Gadap to begin today

KARACHI, April 10: Officials have made all arrangements to launch on Thursday a three-day polio vaccination drive in Gadap Town that had been twice postponed for want of security.

The officials had previously planned to launch the drive on April 5 in Gadap Town’s union council-4 only, where some 77,000 children had missed out because of aggravated security situation. Later the authorities deferred it for six days.

However, this time the authorities have planned to launch the campaign in the entire Gadap Town prior to the nationwide immunisation campaign, which is planned for April 15.

“We have planned to cover Gadap Town’s four union councils in coming three days ahead of the nationwide campaign so that proper security plans could be in place to ensure it concludes peacefully,” deputy commissioner of Malir district Kazi Jan Mohammad told Dawn.

He added that the polio campaign in the remaining four union councils of the town would be supervised by district west officials.

Mr Jan said the Gadap campaign was given exclusive status because of the past security problems.

Children in Gadap had missed out from being administered with polio drops because of attacks on doctors and volunteers engaged in the campaign last year.

The latest attack was carried out on Dec 17, 2012 when a young volunteer associated with the polio drive was shot dead in Gadap Town in the area, stopping the three-day anti-polio campaign in the most volatile union council 4.

Earlier in July 2012, too, a local paramedic associated with polio vaccination was shot dead and a World Health Organisation doctor, Fosten Dido, from Ghana and his driver were wounded in two separate attacks in the Sohrab Goth area.

The deputy commissioner said: “We are conducting this drive separately, as otherwise our police force would be too preoccupied during the nationwide campaign to provide security cover to polio teams in this area.”

He said special security arrangements had been made and micro plans for the polio drive were in place. He said so far, none of doctors or volunteers engaged in the drive had complained of any threats to their lives.

Gadap Town Health Officer Dr Shakoor Abbasi said they had made all necessary arrangements to kick-start the exclusive drive in his town.

The officials said they had got a nod from police and Malir district authorities to start the campaign that had been abruptly ended after attacks on a WHO doctor and several polio vaccinators last year.

“We have given UC-4 a special status because of volatile security situation. Our 74 teams are ready to go on foot for the coming three days to administer polio drops to some 77,000 children of UC-4, who had missed out in the previous campaigns,” said Dr Abbasi.

The target population for vaccinators in Gadap is 218,421 for which some 637 teams have been designated by the health authorities. At least one policeman would accompany every team. However, the number of policemen could be more in highly sensitive areas.

The caretaker Health Minister of Sindh, Dr Junaid Ali Shah, said that polio teams would go door-to-door on foot with police cover. He said several lady health workers (LHWs) had been engaged in a programme to motivate the local population to get their children below five years vaccinated.

“We hope the LHWs’ effort must have improved the situation and ended suspicions among the local population regarding the oral polio vaccine. We will set up awareness campaigns in the affected areas if the situation has not improved yet,” said Dr Shah.

The three-day national immunisation campaign will start on April 15.