Rotarians relentlessly pursue polio in Pakistan
Stepped-up social mobilization is helping to rally support for polio immunization in high-risk areas of Pakistan. Photo courtesy of World Health Organization
Driven by compassion, commitment, and courage, members of the Rotary Club of Peshawar, Pakistan, recently helped immunize children in one of the most remote and dangerous parts of the world.
Members of the club took part in the country's 15-17 September Subnational Immunization Days, reaching children in a federally administered tribal area in North-West Frontier Province near the troubled Pakistani-Afghan border.
"The area is comprised of 320 houses, and the local tribal population is [lagging] in all the development sectors of life, such as education, health, and communication," says club member Syed Feroz Shah.
Before the immunization campaign, he says, "a social mobilization workshop was arranged for the tribal elders, and especially the tribal youth participated with great enthusiasm. A polio awareness walk was conducted in the area to make sure of the efficacy of social mobilization for polio vaccination."
During the three-day campaign, Peshawar Rotarians went house to house to immunize 905 children under age five against polio. They also advised parents of other routine immunizations their children should have.
For two days after the campaign, club members worked to persuade families who had refused to allow their children to be immunized. As a result, the Rotarians were able to vaccinate an additional 105 children missed by the campaign, including 65 children of families who had initially opposed their efforts.
A key focus in Pakistan’s push to end polio, health experts say, will be the provinces at highest risk for the disease: Balochistan, Islamabad, North-West Frontier Province, and Punjab.
"Despite the challenges, we are committed to eradicating polio," says Saeed Akbar Khan, a World Health Organization operations officer in Peshawar.