Family regret: First polio case of 2013 in Pakistan
Karachi, Sindh – April 12, 2013 - Two year old Musharraf is the first child this year to be diagnosed with polio in Pakistan. The fourth and youngest in the family, he was born in a small village in Northern Areas in Pakistan grew up in Bin Qasim, Karachi.
“One morning in early January, Musharraf couldn’t move his leg, said Usman, Musharraf’s father. “I took him to the nearby dispensary and the doctor said that it might be polio.”
In the Bin Qasim village where vaccine refusals are rare, every time the vaccination team visited Musharraf ‘s house over the past two years he was not given polio drops. Usman has three other children aged eight, six and four and all were vaccinated, except Musharraf. “I made sure all my children were vaccinated,” he said. “But I decided not to vaccinate Musharraf because of the antivaccination rumors spread recently in the village. “the rumors angered me”, says Usman
Musharraf walks albeit with a slight limp and wears special shoes custom-made for him. The young boy is also registered for physiotherapy sessions provided by the local health department to maximize his limb control and movement.
It is an ordeal and a hardship that thirty-two year old Usman knows only too well. Usman himself contracted polio when he was just three months old. Usman’s father, who ran a transport business, was an educated man and if he had the opportunity he would have vaccinated young Usman. “It was not like now where there is so much access and knowledge about polio. Those were different times.”
Usman has recently helped polio teams to access families in his village. “I am from Karachi, I understand city people. The polio team was having trouble connecting with the locals so I intervened to facilitate,” he said explaining why he changed his mind, “We are very hospitable people, always welcome everyone, but we also do not shy from fighting. If you want to fight us, fight us in the open, [MC1] not like this. If you are trying to help us then stay true to that.”
Usman now plans to send Musharraf to his hometown in Shangla for a healthier environment in the mountains than the urban reality of Bin Qasim. He hopes the clean air and the freshly grown food would do him good.Usman is living proof that polio and its effects are lifelong and that his young son will have many challenges ahead of him, challenges he realizes could have been avoided if he had been vaccinated.