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August 2, 2019

An LHW striving against polio has a story to tell


August 2, 2019

LAHORE: As polio cases continue to appear across Pakistan, the undaunted commitment of female polio workers is a bulwark against latest surge in the crippling disease in the country.

Shiza Ilyas, a committed Lady Health Worker from UC-44 of Fateh Garh in Baghbanpura area in Lahore, has shown the way to achieve optimum coverage of children’s vaccination by holding door-to-door campaign on a motorcycle.

The confirmation of two more polio cases from Bannu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Quetta, provincial capital of Balochistan, has taken the tally of total number of polio cases to 47 in Pakistan during the ongoing year 2019.

According to details, a 10-month-old Mugheesa from Bannu was confirmed with poliovirus, while a 4-year-old male child born to an Afghan national family was confirmed having contracted the virus in Quetta. “This male child was born after four girls in the family,” it is learnt.

“In view of the latest surge in polio cases in Pakistan, it is our national duty to reach out to every child to vaccinate him against polio to save our future generations from the crippling disease,” said Shiza Ilyas while talking to The News, who has taken a bold initiative to hold door-to-door campaign on a bike, which is still considered unusual generally among women and female polio workers in particular. “The appearance of new cases in Lahore this year is a major concern for polio workers and health authorities,” she added.

The LHW believes polio workers are not welcomed by people. “Sometime they shout at us for coming again and again. I know it’s just not a call of duty, it’s a national cause and the role of polio workers is pivotal to the dream of achieving a polio-free Pakistan,” said 25-year-old Shiza, who is known for working on a motorcycle during polio campaigns.

She recalled an incident where a man came out swearing and local elders came to the rescue. She said the mothers in the area resented the teams knocking at their doors again and again. “We have to put up with insults often in the area but we know this is part of the work,” she said.

Razia Bibi, a mother to a three-year old daughter in the Baghbanpura neighbourhood, says during campaign days, Shiza makes sure the child gets polio drops. “It is unusual for a woman to move on a motorcycle, but it shows the commitment of the female polio workers,” she told this correspondent, adding that Shiza always reminded her of next vaccination date of her daughter.

Shiza Ilyas, however, has regretted that neither the contribution of polio workers gets recognized nor polio workers get due acknowledgement they deserve. “Answering conspiracy theories and providing counselling is the hard work,” she said, adding that LHWs get only Rs 2,300 for five days’ campaign. “The life of frontline polio workers is not easy. But I know that this is worth all the hard work,” she says.

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