Polio workers faced challenges in Hyderabad

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KARACHI: Healthcare teams faced challenges while vaccinating children against polio in Hyderabad district. Reports indicate that more than 7,000 children were unable to receive the crucial drops during the recently concluded campaign.

This troubling situation stems from a lack of enthusiasm and support from the Sindh Health Department and the District Task Force in Hyderabad. Health authorities have submitted a report to the Divisional Task Force and various international donor agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), disclosing missed targets during the campaign.

Among the affected children, 6,458 could not be located by polio workers during their home visits, while the parents of 646 children explicitly declined to permit the vaccination.

Health Ministry sources reveal that the number of children missing anti-polio shots in Hyderabad district is significantly higher than the regional average. This is mainly due to the inadequate support provided to vaccinators. These dedicated male and female workers, who visit households to administer polio vaccines, lack essential facilities and transportation, and security concerns exacerbate the issue.

The lack of engagement from area in-charges during the campaign contributes to the disinterest of polio workers. Consequently, when children are absent during the initial visit, there is often no follow-up to administer the vaccination. Efforts to persuade resistant parents are also lacking, with many of them holding strong religious convictions against the polio vaccine.

 

Health Ministry sources have made a concerning discovery of the polio virus in sewage water in four districts of Pakistan, including Karachi. This strain is similar to the one found in Afghanistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Hyderabad, with its significant Pashtun and Afghan population, is at an elevated risk of a polio virus outbreak.

In a meeting convened to evaluate the ongoing eradication campaign and chaired by the Divisional Commissioner of Hyderabad Syed Khalid Haider Shah representatives of the Divisional Task Force reported on the campaign’s progress.

They noted that this year’s NID Polio campaign marked the second round, with a significant number of children still needing vaccinations and 705 cases of parental refusal. Additionally, there were 2,991 zero-dose children. Hyderabad is currently experiencing the highest number of missed polio vaccine cases, with 52 identified areas where polio workers were unable to vaccinate children.

During the same meeting, Deputy Commissioners from various districts, including Hyderabad, Thatta, Badin, Sujawal, Tando Allahyar, and Tando Muhammad Khan, highlighted the challenges faced during the polio campaign. They stressed the need for effective training of medical officers and area in-charges, as well as addressing the shortage of transportation for polio teams.

Representing the WHO, Dr Earl emphasised the importance of identifying and administering polio drops to children who have been deprived of this vital immunisation.

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