Pakistan who says is not among the developed countries, when it comes to corruption, loot, plunder, crimes and killings we are more ahead of most developed countries and regions in the world.
We have no time to provide clean drinking water to the masses, as it is the job of underdeveloped countries to provide such luxuries. We don’t want to have qualitative educational and health institutes as it doesn’t suit our own standards. We don’t want to fight many diseases of many types; if Poliomyelitis has been eliminated from the face of earth, so what, we have our own diseases to fight.
We want to fight those who are fighting against Poliomyelitis. This is the biggest and largest filth we have in our minds, and it seems to eradicate the Poliomyelitis is only the job of government and few health institutes and dedicated workers who have sacrificed their lives for this great cause and rest it looks like it is none other’s business to support this critical cause, to come out and be helping hand in this essential task, mainly media and Molivis. Media and Molivis’ role can do a great service to our religion and humanity at great level regarding this.
The role of Parhi Likhi (Literate) media in this connection is very deplorable and condemnable. we have more marriage/wedding programs in the morning shows daily but hardly we see such programs even once in a month or in months which require our attention and are of great importance to this cause. Contrary we have seen such reports that show a child died of getting polio drops, such news are reported often in print and electronic media and these news stories cause great harm to polio drive in the country and their effect is felt more in Pakhtun /tribal and refugee dominated areas which are already critical to handle.
Media is like flammable fire it catches and spreads the negative news (fire) more easily than the positive one. And question is very critical that why we see, read every other day the cases of expiry of kids reported being died after having the polio drops?
Though such news could not be true at all but it might not be false too. There might be something wrong? Otherwise why such incidents are occurring and reported in the media?
This is a challenge and same time responsibility of health bodies/taskforces who are working for polio drive. These bodies, government and other institutes must come together to take this issue seriously and should come with clear solution to this once and for all. As reporting of such cases have damaged the efforts of polio workers, doctors, teams who are working very hard day and night to eradicate the roots of this long lasting disease which already has been removed almost 70 percent from the parts of the earth. We should remember Pakistan is one of the three countries in the world categorized, “Endemic” by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI)
Though this looks very difficult task but it is possible once we take the rational and realistic measures and approach to this matter. I have a good experience of such issues being a past research worker in projects at Aga Khan University. I am an eye-witness to polio teams working in Pakhtun and Afghan refugees dominated areas and can share what I stumble upon from time to time to see such situations. I feel it’s important to share my views as following.
Before I go to suggest some important points which I believe would be useful to this cause, let’s see the two scenarios of Polio Teams on the ground.
Al-Asif Square is mostly Pakhtun and Afghan refugees populated area in Karachi. This is a stark truth that working in Pakhtun and Afghan refugee areas is an upheaval task, working in such areas is not so easy and really a risk taking job. These areas require our serious attention and interest with intervention and involvement of local people to work for this cause. Otherwise the goal of eradication of polio from Pakistan will remain only a dream to dream.
What I saw one day in Al-Asif Square? Sitting on stairs of the 4th floor outside a flat, a female worker was filling in a sheet form but with false entries, and another female worker who looked senior was advising her co-worker do it as I am advising you, otherwise they (officers) will enquire us why we did leave this unfilled, unregistered, write the kids have been given drops orally too in the next column. When people would keep on refusing and workers would keep on tampering data, we would have great number of missed children and this will hamper the efforts, we will be starting from zero point again and again.
Now, one wonders why this compelled team workers to enter the false data?
Being an ex worker at AKU with research teams, I have noticed often our workers bring false data from the field but the seniors don’t bother to check it the way it should be checked. They just rely on whatever a worker is fetching is all true and accurate.
We don’t realize how people get annoyed and complain when a research worker/data collector knock on their doors with volley of repetitious questionnaires and taking their time with pesky questions regarding household, incomes, medical history and other socio-economic related data. Moreover when you request and take their lab samples, lecture them on this and that, then follow-ups and same cycle of same activities annoy people to such extent that sometimes we see the cases of violence and abuses hurled at teams. Such episodes lead a worker to fill in the questionnaire with false or same data and this happens more often in such cases when a worker present a true picture of the event or incident in weekly or monthly meetings. Rather he should be listened carefully, sympathetically and must be provided support and guidance how to handle participants or subjects in the field, contrary he/she is either reprimanded or pressurized to such level by his/her seniors/boss that he becomes compel to do what others do every day.
Another time a group of senior and junior workers including doctors were in same area, knocking doors and pleading people please bring you children for polio drops to take. But people were refusing or saying when a doctor (referring probably to the GPS, doctors or quacks in their area where they frequently go for treatment) would ask us to do this otherwise we won’t. A doctor with team was asking a woman I am the doctor, and see we have cold boxes to keep polio vaccines safe so please bring your child to administer him polio drops, but no avail.
- Now when Islamic scholars have declared that polio vaccine is safe and halal all over the world, so this is not enough that few religious scholars are appearing in television advertisements requesting people to get your children immunized, they should come out of their cozy environment and must visit their neighborhoods, preach for this in Jumma sermons with great emphasis and advise the local mosque and maddressah Molivis and administration to go door to door with Polio Teams, ask people to cooperate with the teams and get their children vaccinated to fight this crippling disease and menace which has been cleared off from the most parts of the earth except few countries like ours.
- Media must play a positive role for this critical health issue, run advertisement free of costs for this cause during prime time hours, must show some programs at least 3 or 4 times in a week. Media should also avoid such false news which are badly impacting the thinking of masses and creating misconception. This is highly negative impact it does not only affect the efforts of government and health institutes but create lot of trouble for polio workers who go to filed site.
- Our seniors/doctors/coordinators who are just working in offices and they think they are giving a powerful presentation with PowerPoint in office is doing a great job. This is a less important job they are doing in their offices, they should go out in the field and meet people directly and know on hands what they are actually lacking regarding no response from masses. A better communication should be maintained with media persons/groups and media must be provided with facts regarding polio vaccines safety and their usage as there is lot of misconception among masses and media can play an important in this perspective.
- Wages of workers should be increased who are taking risk, this will not only enhance their work ability but they would also complete their job sincerely. Security must be provided to teams specially working in High Risk Areas.
- Data collectors/Polio workers should be recruited from the concerned areas who know the langue spoken in the area; this will be more useful to achieve the targeted goal.
- The best and realistic approach to this problem is to involve the local community, people, GPS, quacks, union staffs of apartments, Molivis of local mosques and other notables of community will be a great assistance to accomplish this entire project smoothly without their continuous engagement this drive won’t be successful.