Health workers fear attacks; ask for proactive, efficient security arrangements
KARACHI: Even as polio cases dropped significantly in 2015, Karachi is still at high-risk for polio cases. Over the years, only three of 11 high-risk union councils could be declared safe.
At least 11 union councils in the city were declared ‘high-risk’ two years ago in 2013, including Ittehad Town, Chishti Nagar, Islamia Colony, Gujro, Songal, Manghopir, Muzaffarabad, Muslimabad, Liaquatabad, Rahri and Chakra Goth. However, only Liaquatabad, Rahri and Chakra Goth have been declared safe in the last two years.
Attitude of community
During a meeting on Thursday at his office, Karachi Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, in charge of launching polio drives in high-risk areas, said, “Everyone must work with dedication and especially focus their energies on the children who were left out of the polio campaign.”
However, former town health official Dr Mohammad Abbas Gopang, said attitude of the community and their involvement in the polio drive is a huge challenge for health officials in eradicating polio. “We should involve the community more directly in the polio drive instead of approaching them to convince other residents,” he added.
Dr Gopang worked in Gadap Town where Gujro, Songal, Manghopir are high-risk. “The younger generation follows what elders have taught them; to obstruct the polio campaign. Many times, young ones misbehave with health officials and polio workers.”
One of the health officials told The Express Tribune there is not a single local doctor in Gadap Town. “Doctors from outside find it immensely difficult to convince local community,” the officer, requesting anonymity, said. He said residents object to new faces entering their areas. “There is a large trust deficit. Community members complain their needs are ignored and polio is given more importance,” the officer added.
Lack of security, recognition
Law-enforcement agencies do not cooperate with polio workers, a health official said. Though Sindh IGP Ghulam Haider Jamali promised during a meeting on October 2 that adequate security would be provided to polio workers, the promise still needs to be fulfilled.
“Workers don’t want to go there without adequate security,” another health official said. “No one wants to take the risk for a few rupees.”
Another health official said, “We are compelled to delay drives in some areas because we fear our safety and the law-enforcement officials don’t cooperate with us.”
Health officials also told The Express Tribune no one has been recognised by the Sindh government or international organisations for the dangerous work they do. “We go around knocking doors, risking our safety and dignity, and are misbehaved with,” said Maryam, a community worker. “But officials never appreciate our work; they only question us when we miss a few children.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2015.