Sehat Muhafiz Brave the Odds to Protect Children in FR Bannu against Polio

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By Raheel Khan

FR Bannu: Heat, humidity and hard terrain seems to have been taken out of equation by the valiant female Sehat Muhafiz vaccinators in Southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Southern-most FR Bannu as they vigilantly kept on tracking the missed children to ensure that polio virus is defeated in one of its last resorts in the country.

Fehmida, Zainab Bibi and Najia carry out their daily work in the streets of Gorbaz Campin FR Bannu set up for Temporary Displaced Persons (TDPs)from North Waziristan. Fehmida is the area supervisor for Gorbaz camp while Zainab Bibi and Najia go around to capture the number of children living in these camps. They have vaccinated 1, 044 children during the recent campaign which is 100 % of the target.

Fehmida, a graduate of the Bannu University, is working with the programme since January, 2016. Terming community response to vaccination as positive, she says that they just need to be informed about the importance of protecting their children against polio. “When I visit households in the camp I always emphasise the importance of vaccinating children with polio drops and routine immunization, which can help save children from dangerous diseases”.

She adds that now people do understand that polio is a very dangerous disease which can cause life long suffering. She explains that most of the children are vaccinated during the campaign but “I am keener on finding missed children and alerting their parents to never let their children miss vaccination and if missed in the campaign they should look for teams and vaccinate their child as this the only way to protect their children and the entire community against polio.”

Fehmida is happy that there is no polio cases in her area and she says that she really felt proud when she conducted her first awareness session and answered all questions, helping the community cast aside misconceptions.

Najia holds a bachelor degree in Humanities, and was a school teacher in her home town in Mir Ali (North Waziristan) before joining Sehat Muhafiz teams in January this year.She says that most of the community members respect them but then there are some people who still need to be enlightened about the benefits of vaccines for their children.“We learned at the communication skills training the art of managing challenges at to overcome such hurdles and achieve our goal of vaccinating each and every child present in the camp.” Says says Najia. “My family was reluctant to allow me take this job but I convinced them that my service is going to be for the good of entire community.”

Zainab Bibi says that now the families realize the nature of our work and have started giving us respect as well as access to their children for vaccination. “People from North Waziristan are tough and difficult to deal with but we are from among them, we speak their language and dialect and they trust us, at times they could be challenging but now we know them and they know us so it helps seal the deal – vaccinating the children with polio drops.”

The biggest challenge is to work in a society who don’t want to see women outside their homes, but these frontline vaccinators are braving all the odds to carry on with their responsibility of vaccinating children.

The three ladies are confident that one day Pakistan will be polio free as they are working to vaccinate every child in each campaign without missing a single one.

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