Silent Soldiers : Paving Way for Polio-Free Pakistan
By Anam Sairah Khan
"I will be responsible if anyone in my union council god forbid contract polio,"said Ghulam Mustafa, a Union Council Polio Worker (UCPW) of UC 116 in Lahore. Clad in khaki pants and blue dress shirt, he may seem like an ordinary man, but once he shares his opinions and efforts for polio eradication nothing seems ordinary about him. Filled with commitment, Mustafa is an excellent UCPW.
Belonging to an underprivileged family, Ghulam is the youngest among the seven siblings. He lost his father at a very early age. "I wanted to study," he recalls. "I was the first one to do metric in my family and now I am doing M. Phil." He shared with pride. "My mother is very proud of me because people in my community know me very well, they treat me with respect, and they know that I care for their children."
Ghulam Mustafa is the Focal Person of UCPWs in Lahore. His operational work can be admired right by a glance at the files in his hand. Since his joining in 2013, he has archived immaculate data of polio campaign at UC level. UC 116, that was not very famous for its strengths, found its way to improvement after Ghulam Mustafa joined. He not only contributed to the routine polio eradication work at UC level but also started many new initiatives as well.
The Micro-plans prepared by Ghulam Mustafa are a model for other UCs to follow. Talking about his work Dr. Ashraf Wahdaan, a Consultant in WHO commented, "Very good micro-plans, the department of health shall implement these in the whole town". There is no unvaccinated child for routine immunization in his union council since last three campaigns. You will not find any refusal in his UC. After joining UC 116, Ghulam Mustafa also started doing the routine immunizations evaluations by filling house to house clusters to track missed children.
Apart from his busy schedule of polio campaigns, he has also been involved in awareness sessions in schools, sessions with nomads, Polio Walks and Polio Inaugurations. "Repeated campaigns should not be seen a problem but an opportunity to perform better", says Ghulam. During campaigns he provides support to Union Council Medical Officer and Area In-charges, conduct campaign monitoring by checking teams and re-visiting more than 65 houses every day. He ensured that proper evening meetings are being conducted in his UC during polio campaign days to evaluate the campaign performance and next day's planning.
Pakistan has an extraordinary opportunity to take the world over the finishing line for polio eradication. If all elements of the polio programme are accountable for reaching and immunizing every child in polio vaccination campaigns, eradication is possible. By September, the programme will be fully prepared to hold top-quality activities in the upcoming critical 'low transmission season.'
"We can change the perception of polio teams by filling the gaps we find in human resource, trainings and communications skills". Ghulam Mustafa is respected by his teams because of his responsible attitude and support.
The National Emergency Action Plan for Pakistan has outlined an action plan to stop transmission as soon as possible by detecting, containing and eliminating the virus, maintaining and increasing immunity, and strengthening routine immunization to help sustain protection once transmission is stopped.
Pakistan, the single greatest challenge to global eradication, is getting back on track to stop transmission of polio in 2015, making sure that reaching every last child includes reaching every missed child.