Thursday, February 14, 2013
PROTECT THE POLIO VACCINATORS FROM BARBARIC KILLING DURING POLIO CAMPAIGNS
Eradication of polio is just a matter of time now. And the history is on the making.
This is going to be another epoch-making step of the human race after small-pox eradication towards a world worth for better living.
Polio looks to be gone from most of countries except Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, chronic political unrest and social conflicts in those countries have equal negative impact on the on-going polio eradication initiatives, leaving behind the deadly virus alive and active to attack and paralyze innocent children.
The newest and probably the toughest challenge of polio drives in those countries is episodic killing of the polio vaccinators by unknown assailants due to reasons not yet known.
Two such heartbreaking incidences already took place in Pakistan and Nigeria respectively with the span of few months. At least 20 – 25 innocent polio vaccinators including women were shot dead while they were in the vaccination campaign in the field. One of them was as young as 14 years.
Why they were targeted and slain, who were behind this barbaric act and what remained to be their purposes –all these questions are still unanswered.
But the damage has already been done.
The vaccinator force has lost moral strength ‘to seek and immunize every child below five years in the community’ - the prestigious task conferred on them during the polio drive campaigns which is essential to ensure polio eradication.
The situation is alarming and tends to provide the virus rare opportunity to survive and spread the disease debilitating the gallant efforts made in series of polio campaigns of those nations.
And we should also remember about the mammoth global level investment after polio eradication campaigns that might well go for a complete waste if polio virus continues to exist in few countries keeping the threat of transmission across the globe viable, especially to those countries where eradication is achieved with limited or no polio vaccination drive happening at present, thus left with a large cohort of unprotected and vulnerable children.
So, can we sit back and see our polio vaccinators being killed off and on during the polio drives?
Polio vaccinators function as the army infantries of the war. They are tasked to carry out the final assault on the virus by meticulously including every single targeted child into the periodic polio campaigns. They are extensively taught to overcome socio-religious resistance, geographic barriers and conflicting situations with a smiling face and logical mind.
But we never teach them how to stay away from the bullets that can be very well sprayed on them by the unknown and hidden killers.
And the most ill-fated ones have paid the heaviest price for that.
The incidences are not only detrimental to the polio eradication efforts of the globe but display nakedly a gross violation of the rights of the development workers.
If those workers were deployed to work for door-to-door campaign in sensitive or politically disturbed zone whether adequate security measures were undertaken to protect their lives?
If not, then why the polio campaign was conducted in those areas without proper security measures?
Polio vaccinators do have the right to demand for adequate protection if the polio campaign needs their support to cover terror-stricken or politically unrest areas.
The vaccinators do have the right to refuse their services if the security measures are not in place or inadequate in those places.
The honorarium of the vaccinators is still not at par with the amount of workload they shoulder during the polio campaigns. Many vaccinators hail from the low socio-economic classes of the society. A large fraction of them are students and unemployed youth. We also find a good number of rural healthcare professionals providing services as vaccinators in the remote villages.
During multiple field level interactions with vaccinators it was observed that most of them appreciate the social cause attached to their work, not much bothered about the honorarium.
It is those vaccinators who actually nailed the last coffin of polio virus in India; it is those vaccinators who were about to convert the dream of a polio-free society into reality in Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan.
Those are the most critical field workers we have who vow to keep our children absolutely safe from the threat of polio.
It will be a crime if we sit peacefully at home to see them being helplessly killed while instilling polio drops into the mouth of the children.
We made polio drops popular in the name of ‘do bund zindagi ka.’
Why not we care a bit more for the invaluable ‘zindagi’ of our irreplaceable polio crusaders who are committed to the core to exterminate the deadly agent causing crippling paralysis forever?