Women Polio Workers Reach Unvaccinated Children in Pakistan

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Karachi, 11 May, 2015 - 28 year old Nausheen has resolved to make her neighborhood polio free once and for all. She has been working as a social mobilizer for seven years in the troubled area of Manghopir, a poverty stricken locality with pockets of Sindhi, Baloch and Pashtun communities in the outskirts of Karachi.

While 95 per cent of parents in Pakistan want polio workers to vaccinate their children, and accept the vaccine when it is offered, there are pockets of resistance who have been fed false information about the oral polio vaccine making them believe that it has harmful ingredients that causes infertility.

Recruiting more female social mobilisers and vaccinators has been one of the innovative solutions to respond to the challenges that have stood in the way of reaching every child in Pakistan.2,379 social mobilizers are currently supporting polio vaccination teams across Pakistan, 37 per cent of whom are females..

For Nausheen and her team visiting resistant households and convincing them to accept the vaccine for their children is an important part of their job.

Being a woman, Nausheen can enter the houses without cultural barriers. She speaks the same language and shares the same values and beliefs with her community. This has helped her convince large number of parents in Manghopir that the polio vaccine is beneficial for their children.

While fathers are the main decision-makers in Pashtun families, the mothers also need to be motivated to accept the polio vaccine. They are always around the children while fathers are usually out for work during the campaign,” says Nausheen.

“Most of the times when we tell mothers that unvaccinated children may live with a limp or get paralyzed for the rest of their lives, they are genuinely moved and easily convinced” says Nausheen.

306 Pakistani children were paralyzed by polio in 2014, the highest number in a decade. Yet the country still has an opportunity to reverse the trend and take the world over the finish line on eradication.

Frontline healthcare workers, community healthcare providers and practitioners are central to achieving the goal of eradication if no child is to be left behind.Eradicating polio will not only prevent children in Pakistan from lifelong paralysis, but will ensure that no child, anywhere, will ever suffer from this disease again.

“If every parent understands the value of these two life-saving drops, polio will be eradicated from Pakistan very soon,” says Nausheen

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