Polio eradication campaign in KPK and a new cautious optimism

Polio eradication campaign in KPK and a new cautious optimism | PakistanTribePESHAWAR – Pakistan, despite its earnest polio eradication campaign, remains with Afghanistan and Nigeria as one of the only three countries in the world to still have the curse of polio.

The polio virus spreads from person to person and remains endemic, putting millions of children in the three mentioned countries at risk of paralysis.

The fight against polio is not Pakistan’s only fight in this campaign. The polio workers involved in the polio eradication campaign are perpetually attacked by the Taliban and many lives have been lost.

The country has lost hundreds of polio workers, health staff and vaccination teams of both genders, because of the Taliban who have waged an open and brutal war against polio workers consider it un-Islamic.

Northwestern Pakistan, particularly the lawless tribal regions along the Afghan border are the hotspots for this highly infectious and crippling disease.

The Pakistani Taliban banned polio vaccinations in the tribal region of Waziristan, alleging the campaign was a cover for espionage.

Polio eradication efforts have also suffered due to long-standing rumors that the vaccine was a part of the Western plot to sterilize Muslims.

Latest weekly poll results released by Insights Polls and conducted by Insights Research Consultants in KPK- Pakistan has involved computer Aided Telephonic Interviews (CATI) with 2080 randomly selected phone-owning residents of KPK from Socio -Economic Classes C,D & E.

Respondents were parents of 12-23 months old children.Keeping the cultural issues in view, only the fathers were interviewed because they are the decision makers of Pashtun families.

It was revealed that the majority of respondents (67%) agreed that the Immunization is beneficial to the health and well-being of children and disagreed with the controversial view that the Polio vaccine is intended to kill or harm the reproductive health of children.

During the discussion it was suggested by the respondents that the Ulama and Imams of the masajid and a few politicians can also play a very significant role in their lives, like opinion changing, and life style of a lower SEC Pashtoun. It was further asked that if the mullahs and Imams of the mosques are brought on board how they will react towards the polio drive. It was also unearthed during this discussion that the Imams of the masajid do not discourage the Polio drive on the platform of the mosques but they do it privately and declare it “Un-Islamic”.

Participants were of the opinion that if Imams of the masajid and Ulama confirm that its not un-Islamic and they have nothing against the polio drive rather they will help getting it done peacefully. It was further asked which Fiqah of Ulama can convince them. All the participants advocated for “Ahl e Sunnat wal Jamaa’t”.

It was suggested that after declaring the polio workers as the soldiers of Islam and criticizing attacks on polio vaccination teams by Mr.Imran Khan’s (Chairman Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf), played a very vital role in changing their opinion and perception. While 63% of the respondents affirmed that they are convinced after Mr.Imran Khan’s stance on polio that it is not un-Islamic and will support the campaign and further disseminate this message.

Finally, respondents were asked, “What suggestions do you have to improve the Immunization/Vaccination program in KPK?

In response (44%) of respondents suggested that better communication efforts were needed to educate the public on the benefits of Immunization and Vaccination. This is followed by 15% who were of the opinion that health workers require better training to be able to convey the benefits of their activities to the service users while 13% suggested that religious and political leaders need to be fully involved in promoting immunization programs.

Other suggestions included; Logistics for vaccines and immunization materials have to be improved (12%), better coordination between the Health Ministry and local partners (9%); and provision of security to the polio campaign teams (3%).


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