: Deadly attacks fail to scare off health workers from vaccinating against polio
PESHAWAR, May 23: Nadia, a young health worker, feels pride in choosing the profession which claimed life of her younger sister, Sunbal , gunned down by militants in Peshawar in an armed attack targeting polio vaccinating team.
Sunbal, a female anti-polio worker of 18 years age had sustained critical bullet wounds in an attack by armed assailants on May 28, 2013 in Badhaber area on the outskirts of Peshawar. She battled for life for ten days but finally succumbed to her injuries on June 7, 2013. In the attack, another female health worker, Sharafat Bibi had died instantly.
“I have not come out of the pain and grief we felt due to gruesome assassination of Sunbal, but yet decided to work for the same cause for which my sweet sister embraced martyrdom”, says Nadia while talking with Central Asia Online (CAO).
Recalling the tragedy, Nadia said Sunbal’s martyrdom did scare me and my family but the incident also instilled an inner strength in me to fight back by continuing the mission of serving and saving countermen from the crippling disease.
Just after eight months of the gory incident, Nadia joined Health department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and now also serves as polio vaccinator during immunization campaigns.
“I am not afraid of meeting the same fate my sister met, because it is a big honor which very rare people can understand and achieve”, she remarked.
Adding that being a Muslim it is my firm belief that everything is in the hands of God and no one can inflict harm on anyone without His consent.
“Deadly attacks by militants fail to scare away health workers from vaccinating against polio and instead made them more resilient and determined in their resolve of saving the upcoming generation from an ailment which can cause permanent disability,” comments Dr. Imtiaz Ali Shah, Technical Focal Person and Incharge of Polio Monitoring Cell Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Since December 2012 when first polio vaccinator was killed in Khyber Pakhtunkwa, so far 33 health workers have embraced martyrdom, but there is very little evidence of refusal in Health department, Imtiaz added.
Like Nadia, Wisal, a taxi driver, is also proud over sacrifice of his younger son Hilal who was shot by militants on 19 December 2012 during vaccination campaign at Shero Jangi area on Charsadda road Peshawar.
“I have re-sent my elder son, Bilal to work in Health department with the objective of fulfilling the mission for which Hilal had dreamed,” informs grey haired Wisal.
My heart is weeping for Hilal who was just an FA student, but when I realize the cause for which he rendered his life, I became patient, continued Wisal with tears rolling down his cheek.
He requested government to construct a Health unit in memory of Hilal so that people could remember national heroes who died for the cause of making Pakistanis a healthy nation.
Amina Rehman, elder sister of Farzana, 18 years old young girl who was the first victim of militant’s attacks against health workers in KP, is also desperate to become a polio vaccinator.
“My body shivers when I recalls the horrific attack on my sister Farzana while we both were working as polio vaccinators in the Jurisdiction of Mathra Police station Peshawar on 18 December, 2012,”.
Its very disturbing when blood stained body of Farzana comes in my mind and I reminisce the shock and tragedy my family passed through, but still I wish to become a Health worker and work for the same cause of severing humanity, Amina expressed the resolve.
Said Rehman, elderly father of Amina Rehman, agrees with his daughter’s desire and has expressed consent for joining the vaccination campaign as a volunteer.
“If Amina wants to serve humanity like her sister, Farzana, I have no objection and infact will be happy that my second daughter is working for the sacred mission of saving children from becoming handicapped,” retort Said Rehman while talking with CAO.
Realizing the resilience and determination of our Health team Workers, one can claim of being able to eradicate polio from the country within few months if polio teams are provided access to areas from where the disease is emanating (Waziristan and other inaccessible areas in tribal belt), claimed Dr. Imtiaz Ali Shah.
He said Pakistan had almost eradicated polio in 2005 and re-emergence of the virus is result of inaccessibility of health teams to administer polio drops to children in tribal region, especially Waziristan.
Even in the current year when 66 cases of polio are reported in Pakistan till May 20, 2013, 52 are from FATA out of which 44 are from only North Waziristan and five from South Waziristan, he disclosed. Similarly in 2013, 93 cases of polio were reported in Pakistan out of which 66 were from whole FATA and 36 from North Waziristan.
Cases reported in settled areas like Karachi and Peshawar are also related to tribal region as the families have migrated from native towns.
“We have a brave and ambitious team which is doing its job with exemplary chivalry in a very hostile environment and is able of making Pakistan clear from Polio,” asserts Dr. Imtiaz.