With at least three female vaccinators falling victim to the bullets of ruthless killers in Baldia and Landhi, it is hardly surprising that lady health workers are extremely reluctant to administer anti-polio drops to children in the upcoming vaccination drive in these areas.
Sources in the health department said lady health workers and volunteers were not willing to take part in the decentralised polio vaccination drives in districts East and West.
The polio vaccination drive in three high risk union councils of Baldia Town, District West was to be carried out between Friday and Sunday, but authorities had serious problems in convincing vaccinators to embark in the door-to-door campaign.
“Lady health workers are especially reluctant to participate due to security concerns. Their parents or husbands are not allowing them to be part of the campaign,” a health official told The News on Wednesday, while choosing to remain anonymous.
He said health authorities were endlessly trying to convince the workers and volunteers, assuring them that foolproof security would be provided; however, they were still hesitant.
The health department official said UCs 1, 2 and 3 of Baldia town were high risk areas with respect to polio. He added that the security situation in the area was extremely volatile and that was the reason a number of female workers were unwilling to take part in the vaccination campaign.
A lady health worker, who identified herself as Shahana, a resident of Baldia town, said her husband and parents had disallowed her from taking part.
“Health officials say the police will provide security to vaccinators, but the cops was present in Baldia when armed men shot a lady vaccinator dead. Nobody trusts the police for security in Karachi anymore,” she maintained.
Similar problems were being faced by health officials in the Landhi Town of District East.
Town health department officials said they had given all kinds of assurances and incentives to the lady health workers and volunteers, but they were reluctant to take part in the drive.
“The killings of four polio workers seriously hampered efforts to eradicate the disease from Karachi as it frightened the volunteers to death, especially the female workers,” an official of Landhi Town said.
Health officials said they were arranging meetings of volunteers and lady health workers with the respective deputy commissioners on Thursday to get assurances that adequate security would be provided.
“In the absence of lady health workers, it would be immensely difficult for male vaccinators to go door to door in the areas of Ladhi and Baldia to administer polio drops,” the official said.
Health authorities said deputy commissioners would be urged to deploy Rangers as security for the vaccinators as only police presence would not be enough to convince them.
“The last option would be to close down all the health department dispensaries, centers and use government staff to administer polio vaccine drops, but it would be a difficult and tiresome process” the official concluded.
Expanded Program on Immunisation (EPI) Sindh officials were not available to comment on the issue.