Female polio workers go through trials and tribulations to work towards a nation free from the scourge of the debilitating disease.
Multan is the only district in southern Punjab where all frontline polio workers happen to be women. Around 4,000 are currently on duty in the city, which has a population of more than six million, out of which one million are below five years of age.
A female polio worker in the district, who requested anonymity, said that her job is extremely difficult as staff must confront challenging environments.
The polio worker said that during campaigns certain residents harass, insult or even abuse them. Notwithstanding, the staff continue to perform their duties diligently keeping in mind the dream of having a polio-free Pakistan.
Another female polio worker said that to manage her job and raise her children at the same time is a tough job. She added that it would all be worth it to see a polio-free Pakistan one day.
The polio worker claimed that the feudal lords of Multan create hindrances for the campaign.
Another polio worker said that certain residents believe the vaccination causes infertility. She added that they say that our campaign is against the tenets of Islam.
Some residents have even threatened to kill polio staff.
A seasoned polio worker who has been working for the past 10 years said that even if a single case is detected, staff negligence is blamed for the detection.
Residents are reluctant to allow us inside their homes now owing to the rise in robberies, she said.
“Our salaries are released late, even on occasions such as Eid,” she added.
The polio worker said that even during Ramazan our timings are not changed and the female staff must work in the extreme summers.
She said that some residents shout at them and admonish them to not visit their residence again. “However, we are steadfast in our work because we know that the eradication of polio is a national cause,” she added.
Certain residents appreciate and encourage us and offer us hospitality, she said.
New Vision Foundation President Shahbaz Gurmani said that 52 incidents of harassment, as well as attacks, were reported in the last 10 years.
These incidents were observed in Multan, Dera ghazi khan, Bahawalpur, Sahiwal and Sargodha divisions. In this regard, 23 FIRs were lodged and 33 persons have been arrested in the cases.
The areas religious and political parties support and assist the anti-polio campaign staff. Wafaqul Madaris alArabaia (WMA) General Secretary Mohammad Haneef Jalandhri, who heads the largest grouping of seminaries in the country, claimed that the WMA has been fully cooperating with polio staff.
Jalandhri added that he has directed seminary staff to guarantee that no child under the age of five is missed.
In the wake of the recent polio case detection in Lodhran, several parliamentarians have played an active role in the field monitoring of polio workers. Abdul Qadir Gillani, son of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani said that he had personally been overseeing the activities of the anti-polio campaign. Gillani said he had monitored campaigns in Lutfabad, Nehalaywala, Shadi Wali as well as areas of 17 Kassi and 19 Kassi in Multan.
The former parliamentarian said that female polio workers had been performing their duty diligently.
Parliamentarian Shaukat Bosan said that to achieve a polio-free Pakistan it is imperative that citizens cooperate with the campaign’s staff.
Executive District Officer Health Zafar Iqbal said that female workers are playing an indispensable role in eradicating the disease.
Multan Commissioner Nadir Chatta said that polio workers perform their duty even in the most testing conditions.