Media coverage ‘hurting’ anti-polio efforts
Karachi: With the postponement of the polio immunisation campaign in 10 union councils over security concerns, officials associated with the drive have requested the media to keep the anti-polio activities hushed during the campaign.
“Constant updates in the media, both electronic and print, about the campaign give the terrorists time to prepare,” said Dr Arif Niaz, an officer of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI). “The media have always supported our efforts, so it is a request to them.”
A better idea would be to carry out awareness programmes about the crippling disease during the days when the drive is not being held. “This would have long-term benefits,” he said.
With increasing attacks on teams associated with the anti-polio campaign, the widely publicised event has become hushed.
The national anti-polio drive came to a standstill across Sindh in January when three immunisation workers were shot dead in Karachi’s Qayyumabad locality.
Lady health workers and volunteers associated with the campaign are working under great fear for their lives.
Some are not participating in the ongoing drive because they are not satisfied with the security arrangements, said the officials at the EPI office.
As a general rule, no anti-polio team should leave their health centre before a police mobile arrives at the venue.
In such uncertain circumstances, Lady Health Workers Association Sindh President Khairunnisa Memon has also requested the media to refrain from airing hourly updates about the polio immunisation drive during the scheduled days.
“I understand that the media want to inform the public, but we must remember we are working in a war zone. Our enemies are smart, and we don’t want to help them,” said Khairunnisa. “We have been asking the government to keep these campaigns as hushed as possible.”
According to her, the teams of polio workers should stop wearing the blue vests that identify them. “Neither should they mark each house as they visit an area. All these little signs give them away.” The whole exercise should take place quietly, without raising any suspicion, she added.
OPV inoculation in 19 UCs
The EPI Sindh undertook a special anti-polio immunisation campaign, with a target population of more than 200,000 under-fives, in 19 high-risk union councils (UCs) of Karachi on Sunday.
A sense of responsibility complemented by confidence of being provided with the required security cover added to the zeal of the vaccinators as well as parents.
EPI Sindh Deputy Director Dr Dur-e-Naz Jamal Kazi said the one-day special campaign was focused to inoculate children who could not be covered by the EPI teams in the recent months because of uncertain law and order conditions.
“The exercise was a precursor to our fully fledged national immunisation campaign scheduled to begin on Monday,” said Dur-e-Naz.
In response to a question, she said that according to the plan, 24 districts were to be covered, but after required deliberations on Saturday, it was decided that the exercise would be deferred until Monday in five UCs.
Highly appreciative of the security cover provided by the city police and other law enforcers to polio vaccinators, the EPI Sindh official expressed her gratitude to the district education department for providing the needed manpower.
Responding to another query, she said the 188 UCs in Karachi had been divided into four categories: category-one represented those with the highest number of cases, while category-four was considered to be the safest.