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March 4, 2015

Parents taken into custody over refusal

National

March 4, 2015

PESHAWAR: After failure of the highly paid communication officers of the international agencies to convince parents to agree to administer polio drops to their children, the police finally resorted to arresting parents in a shocking development with regard to the polio eradication programme.
According to officials, 471 parents were taken into custody from Mathra, Badaber, Sheikh Muhammadi, Sarband, Sharikera, Urmar and Khazana areas of Peshawar for refusing polio drops to kids.
For the first time in history, parents were detained under Section 3 of the Maintenance of Public Order (MPO).The United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is tasked with countering refusals through its Communication Networking (COMNET) Programme that has hired hundreds of highly paid communications experts for the job
However, health officials had been pointing out since long that the COMNET Programme was not delivering since the disclosure of the dirty role played by Dr Shakil Afridi in Abbottabad due to his fake vaccination campaign aimed at tracking down al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden.
The parents mistrust of the vaccination programme, especially the anti-polio drive increased manifold since then.Although the polio control authorities had been claiming recently that the number of refusals was on the decrease in the country, the official data sheet of the first polio national campaign of the year stated that a huge number of almost 60,000 children were missed due to parental refusals across the country.
“In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone, the total number of children missed during refusals was 38,000, which is higher than any other province in the country,” said an officer of the polio programme requesting anonymity in Peshawar.
The officer said the UNICEF had hired majority of the highly paid communication officers to counter refusals since 2011 and that the provincial administration was completely unaware of the appointments.
“The appointments of the

communication officers by UNICEF became controversial from the word go as these officers supposed to report to the deputy commissioner (DC) were actually drawing more salaries than the DC,” remarked the officer. He added that the salaries of the officers were slashed in 2012 due to the same reason.
An officer working for UNICEF, while requesting anonymity, stated that all the appointments were made according to merit and following proper procedure. “We will fight for the parents who have been arrested for refusing polio vaccine as research has shown that forced vaccination results in increased number of parental refusals,” the UNICEF officer argued.
The district administration, however, claimed that the step has already started to show improvements in cases of refusals as the parents had started to allow their children to be vaccinated.
“It is the incorrect policies of the international donor agencies that have made us cut a sorry figure across the world in countering polio. it is high time that the international donor agencies leave the polio programme to the provincial health department and the government as they have completely failed to counter refusals and regain the trust of the parents in the polio drive,” an officer of the district administration said.
Polio vaccination has been made controversial in the country in general and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata in particular due to the role of Dr Shakil Afridi for conducting the fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad to help CIA trace Osama ?bin Laden.
Other factors were the malicious propaganda by the clerics against the vaccines, lack of accountability of the people associated with the programme and failure of the government to reach children in the settled and tribal areas.
In 2014, up to 306 new polio cases, far and away the largest share of the 340 cases worldwide recorded by the World Health Organisation (WHO), were reported in the country to break the previous record of 199 new cases in 2000.
According to WHP, once a common childhood disease, polio- which can cause paralysis and mostly affects children below 5- has declined by 99 percent in the last 25 years with aggressive vaccination campaigns.
Also, since 2012 after Taliban banned vaccination campaign, 64 people, mostly polio vaccinators, have been killed in attacks on polio teams and their security escorts in the country. Some of the people are opposing polio vaccinations and suspect it part of Western agenda to sterile children.

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