Since health workers vaccinating children against polio face the growing threat of targeted violence, especially in the restive tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and the adjoining Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Ministry is to suggest during the meeting the measures, including the raising of a dedicated force, for the safety of vaccinators.
Besides, it will also apprise participants of a plan for doing away with barriers between vaccinators and children in tribal areas, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Gaddap town of Karachi; addressing management, oversight and accountability issues in Peshawar, Hyderabad and Quetta through effective monitoring, and sustaining the gains in free-polio areas like southern Punjab, northern Sindh and Rawalpindi, to free the country from the crippling virus.
The relevant officials at the ministry firmly believe the proposed ‘Polio Eradication in Pakistan: The Way Forward’ will sit well with the participants and thus, securing their consent for early execution.
Until now this year, 23 new polio cases have been reported in the country, mostly from tribal areas due to poor or no vaccination campaigns.
According to an official, the major threat to efforts for polio eradication in Pakistan, one of the three countries only where the virus is prevalent, is the insecurity of vaccinators.
“A total of 22 health workers involved in polio vaccination have been killed in the country, mostly in central Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi, since July 2012. Besides, there are also series of threats to polio workers, both written and verbal, by unidentified elements, and teams are chased in the field. Ironically, no one claims responsibility for all that,” he told this correspondent on Thursday.
In his opinion, what the country needs is to innovate and improvise with the introduction of measures like establishing a dedicated force and engaging Frontier Corps for the protection of polio teams in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, especially police have refused to offer the service for being understaffed and much occupied with fight against terrorists.
Since there is a complete ban on polio vaccination by Taliban militants in North and South Waziristan tribal agencies, the official said the ministry wanted the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governor to proactively pursue negotiations and other means for persuade Taliban militants into resumption of polio campaigns in North and South Waziristan.
“We feel without his (governor’s) support, there will be no significant change in the situation (in FATA),” he said.It's tempting, here in tranquil Stockholm on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, to harrumph once or twice and then call for horse, foot, and artillery (and drones) to sort out the recalcitrant Taliban. But the Pakistanis have it right: They can't exterminate every adversary, so they've got to negotiate because they've also got to go on living with the Taliban—and the Taliban's kids.