Via The News International, an editorial: Polio protests.
As if we did not have enough problems surrounding our troubled polio campaign, during which health workers have been gunned down and militants have prevented vaccination, we now have another dimension to the issue.
Dozens of polio workers have been protesting against the failure by the government to pay them the honorarium promised for taking part in the latest anti polio drive in Peshawar district. The volunteers say that they had done an important job by taking part in the campaign and conducting it successfully. During their rally on Thursday, they demanded the amount promised be paid up so that the matter could be cleared.
What they are asking is just. Given the environment they work in, anti-polio volunteers in essence put their lives at risk while handing out the amber drops that can save children from a potentially crippling disease that has affected 83 young children in the country this year alone. The toll threatens to rise, with further cases reported regularly, notably in the Fata and KP areas.
In this situation, the volunteers engaging in drives against the disease that Pakistan battles to defeat assume special significance. It is imperative that they be given the dues they were promised so that they and others like them can be encouraged to play a further role in battling polio. Right now, there are few who are willing to do so given the risks they face.
With these realities in view, it seems senseless to avoid paying up the honorarium the volunteers have now been forced to stage protests to demand. The government must meet these demands as quickly as possible and not create a further loophole in the effort against polio by alienating the people who go out into the field to administer the drops or assist the campaign in other ways.
Their services are badly needed right now. It is foolish to dishearten them or damage the spirit these young volunteers have shown during the recent campaign in the Peshawar area. The KP government must find out why this lapse has happened and try to avoid it in the future.