PESHAWAR: The Emergency Operational and Security Guidelines issued by the government for polio vaccination after the killing of 15 people in Karachi and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has ended the role of Unicef in social mobilisation campaigns, officials claimed.
The Unicef, which is supporting the government in polio eradication in the country, had signed a contract with the government of Pakistan and CHIP Training and Consulting (private) Limited under which the former had pledged Rs230 million to create demand for oral polio vaccine (OPV) in the 33 ‘high risk’ districts of the country.
Since last year, the Unicef had created Communication Network (COMNet) by recruiting 1,072 communication officers at the district and union council level on lucrative salaries, but the security guidelines had ended their role.
“There is no role for about 204 COMNet staff recruited in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 144 in Federally Administered Tribal Areas after the security guidelines. Majority of them received salaries for doing nothing,” the officials said.
The COMNet staff doesn’t come under the supervision of the health department due to which they don’t have any role left for them after the deterioration of security situation.
The sources said that according to the guidelines, the campaigns would now be spearheaded by deputy commissioners in districts and they would decide about schedule of the campaigns. Earlier, the COMNet staff ran social mobilisation campaigns before the immunisation, which included pasting of banners and organising walks to promote OPV, but now they had been sidelined.
The guidelines ask the COMNet staff to avoid visiting the vaccinators during door-to-door campaign. “Under the guidelines, they are supposed to address refusal clusters, but there are already Union Council Polio Eradication Committees (UPECs) for this task,” they said.
Also, the health department has been advised to give greater role to the local influential people in tackling polio refusal cases.