Polio and Pakistan
Recently we made the top in polio spreading nations with over 200 cases for the first time in a decade; leading the other two countries namely Afghanistan and Nigeria. The atomic power well above two war ledge failed states, isn’t this amazing? Cursing started from all corners for the negligence and poor health condition in Pakistan.
It’s a real pity while you see the global media news about failure of Pakistan to eradicate Polio and thus becoming biggest responsible country for spreading this threat. Before that, in response to warnings issued by WHO, Special measures were taken by Government of Pakistan which included establishing mandatory immunization counters on all airports, border crossings and seaports for all travelers(staying for more than 4 weeks). After polio campaigns for many years, we are still short of getting rid of Polio and our roses keep on fading away. Here, the main question is that, who is responsible for all this and how to come out of this situation?
The growth of the polio problem is mainly linked with the presence of militants in the country’s northeast and the deterioration of the country’s internal security situation in general. This mainly includes restraining the parents from immunizing their children and killing of Polio staff all over the country. Every now and then these Polio workers are targeted and killed which gives a huge loss to their families and also get the brakes on this campaign with an infused fear within relevant staff. Apart from this, I would like to talk about lack of trust between government and public and need to bridge this gap in light of my experiences.
My first cousin was infected with polio and expired just last year. He carried the suffering for almost 30 years and was unable to walk or talk. It was a real pain to witness twinge and exam which his immediate family carried for so many years. Especially his mother (my aunt) carried huge gaps in life while taking care of her child. Another case I saw one of my colleagues who was infected with Polio. Although his suffering is par less than my cousin as he is able to do almost everything despite of an irregular body growth and irregular fingers. He still caries himself with all the energy and passion to progress in his career but surely missed an even space in society. Surely, one can not wish this sort of things happening to anybody else in the world.
Lack of trust is another key factor while falling short of Polio and health targets. There is a very strong perspective against the government in Pakistan whenever such campaign is started. We have seen this in past whether it is Iodine Mila Namak or in case of family planning Sabz Sitara movement. “Surely there must be something wrong in it as these vaccines/formulas are coming from outside the country (our enemies); they want to induce low-fertility and infect us/our generations to come with the help of our own government” all of us must have countered this sort of thoughts somehow when people see their own government as a threat. No doubt, the government is short of gaining trust of its citizens who see a conspiracy in each step be it meant to be taken for their welfare; as a result many people does not co-operate in such campaigns. Let’s try to search some reasons for this lack of confidence.
We keep on listening news regarding existence of expired/outdated vaccines OR vaccines which were not kept at the desired temperatures especially in the less privileged areas. Ignorance and lack of knowledge also leads to doubts where such campaigns and started in a hush without educating the masses. Such things and other political two-faced attitude give rise to non co-operation and lack of trust between people and government.
I would like to invite government to take such initiatives that may bring the trust and co-operation back by taking sincere steps with backing of media and other intellectual forums; spreading health awareness to grass root level like it was done against Dengue fever in Punjab. It is our responsibility as true Pakistanis and true citizens of this world to act at a rapid pace to root out black spot of Polio from our face to better face the next generations to come…