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November 5, 2015

Anti-polio drive put off over lack of security

Karachi

November 5, 2015

Karachi
As Pakistan continue to plunge deeper into the quagmire of polio, efforts to eradicate the polio from Pakistan suffered another setback on Wednesday when a national vaccination campaign scheduled to start from Thursday (today) was postponed in three districts of Karachi because the police department were unable to provide enough cops for the security of vaccinators.
The police’s refusal to provide security for the campaign compelled international health agencies and consultants to put it off.
“The Sindh IGP had assured us that 3,000 policemen would be provided for the vaccination drive. But a day before the drive is scheduled to start, the police department told us that it can’t provide more than 1,300 policemen, compelling us to postpone the campaign,” Sindh Emergency Operations Centre coordinator Dr Usman Chachar told The News.
Dr Usman Chachar said the vaccination drive was scheduled to start in the West, Central and South districts of Karachi in the first phase and 1,026,351 children had to be vaccinated against polio.
The previous vaccination drive in Karachi was held in October this year. That drive too was compromised over lack of adequate security and a mop-up campaign held later in the month in five towns had to be cancelled as police had refused to provide security to vaccinators.
Dr Chachar maintained that in the absence of the required number of cops, polio workers were compelled to stay together and faced problems in reaching the targeted number of children.
“This results in missing many children and making the drive ineffective.”
The official said the WHO and Unicef provincial chiefs as well as international consultants were unsatisfied over the security of polio workers.
“They [the WHO and Unicef] have compelled us to postpone the drive for at least a day.”
He said Emergency Operations Centre and the international bodies’ representatives would meet on Thursday and review whether the

policemen required for commencing the vaccination drive on Friday were available or not.
The official further said even the National Emergency Operations Centre in Islamabad was unsatisfied with the quality of vaccination drive conducted in Karachi in October.
“That drive too was affected by security issues as hardly 1,200 policemen were provided for three districts.”
Dr Chachar said the police department had refused to provide the required number of cops even though the chief minister had specifically instructed the IGP to do so.
‘Not the preferred way’
The official said the campaign in Karachi had been divided into two phases.
“This is not the preferred way to conduct vaccination drives, but keeping in view the police’s failure in providing security to vaccinators for three consecutive days, we had to divide it into two phases.
A police spokesperson said his department was always available for the security of polio workers.
“The Sindh police always provide additional security for polio vaccination drives in the city,” he added.