As polio cases continue to appear across Pakistan, the undaunted commitment of female polio workers is a bulwark against the latest surge in the crippling disease in the country, says an exclusive report by Amer Malik for The News.
Talking about the latest surge in polio cases in Pakistan, Shiza Ilyas – a Lady Health Worker from the Fateh Garh area of Lahore – said, “It is our national duty to reach out to every child to vaccinate him against polio to save our future generations from the crippling disease.”
Shazia, 25, runs a door-to-door anti-polio drive on a bike, in a society where bike riding isn’t considered suitable for women.
The confirmation of two more polio cases from Bannu and Quetta has taken the tally of the total number of polio cases to 47 in Pakistan in the current year.
“The appearance of new cases in Lahore this year is a major concern for polio workers and health authorities,” she said.
About the working environment, Shazia says polio workers are not welcomed by people. “Sometimes they shout at us for coming again and again. I know it’s just not a call of duty, it’s a national cause and the role of polio workers is pivotal to the dream of achieving a polio-free Pakistan.”
She recalled an incident where a man came out swearing and local elders came to the rescue. She said the mothers in the area resented the teams knocking at their doors again and again. “We have to put up with insults often in the area but we know this is part of the work,” she said.
Shiza regrets that neither the contribution of polio workers gets recognised nor they get due acknowledgement. “Answering conspiracy theories and providing counselling is the hard work,” she said.
She added that the LHWs get only Rs2,300 for a five-day campaign. “The life of frontline polio workers is not easy. But I know that this is worth all the hard work,” she said.
As compared to 2017 with just eight (08) cases and 2018 with 12 polio cases registered from Pakistan and none from Punjab, the year 2019 has seen a sudden rise in polio cases, which has taken the tally to 47 in Pakistan so far.
Out of a total of 47 polio cases in Pakistan, 28 have been confirmed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as eight cases in its tribal districts, five in Punjab, three in Sindh, and three in Balochistan.