5th polio case surfaces in Karachi: Anti-polio activities speed up at airport after WHO ban

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KARACHI: The fifth polio case surfaced in Karachi on Monday when additional special health secretary Sindh Dr Suresh Kumar told Daily Times latest polio victim is identified as Hafsa (18 months) daughter of Hayat Rasool from Union Council 8 Gaddap Town.At Jinnah Terminal Karachi Airport there are four counters, which are already functioning for polio vaccination for international and domestic passenger. On increasing polio cases in Pakistan and ban on travelling abroad by World Health Organisation (WHO) without polio vaccination, around thirty-two vaccination social workers detailed at Karachi Airport for polio vaccination in three shifts. However after WHO’s ban two more counters has been established.Sindhi population dominates Gaddap Town. However Afghan Basti in vicinity is also blamed to be ‘polio importer’ due to huge population from country’s tribal area. Travellers come here and seek knowledge about the matter but government authorities do not bother for polio workers providing them promised salaries, facilities and protection, said Rashid Aziz a polio vaccinator social worker posted at Jinnah Terminal Karachi Airport.Former President Asif Zardari announced confirmation of polio vaccinators and increase wages to Rs 15,000 per month. But it proved lip service, Rashid said. The authorities announced polio vaccinators would be confirmed but they changed job title from ‘polio vaccinator’ to ‘vaccinator social worker’, he said showing his work card hanging around his neck.Authorities also enhanced the workload after increase in our daily wages from Rs 250 to Rs 500. Earlier it was from 9am to 2pm. Now it is from 9am to 6pm and they have also reduced our workdays from four to two days, he added.A lady worker wishing not to be named said she was working for the last 9 years. But for her things have not changed.Our wages and circumstances where we work are hard and even we do not have knowledge about our weekly offs.If someone requires leave, he/she has to ‘arrange’ substitute in the form of sister or brother, she said. The substitute just provides as helping hand to senior partner on duty.Sona Bari Geneva based WHO official for Global Polio Eradication Initiative told Daily Times WHO recommendations were for countries, which were exporting wild poliovirus (Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon) to vaccinate their travellers with a dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV) or inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) between 4 weeks and 12 months before international travel. WHO’s role is to support the government in implementing these recommendations. The government is responsible for issuing certificate, which can be obtained from WHO, said WHO official.Airport Health Officer at Karachi Airport Dr Anwar-ul-Haque said measures were being taken to facilitate the passengers. There are two outlets established at Karachi Airport. We require around 5,000 cards per day. We have sufficient amount of vaccination, which we are getting from Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) and cards, but again non-stop provision of vaccination and cards needs to be carry on,” he said.Around 98 percent of the Sindh’s overseas traffic is being managed from Karachi Airport as Airport, seaport and ground crossing are the points of entrance and exit.International health is federal government’s subject whereas national health is the provinces subject after the 18th Amendment. After 18th Amendment, federal Ministry of Health has been transformed into National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination currently headed by Minister of State Mrs Saira Afzal Tarar.The Ministry deals with the international organisations such as WHO, United Nations (UN) and World Health Assembly (WHA). On the other hand provinces deal national health issues. As per WHO guidelines, pregnant women could be vaccinated. However cancer patients could not be vaccinated.Currently we are vaccinating around 300 to 600 persons per day at Airport. However within next fifteen days it is expected to increase to thousands, as at Karachi Airport daily traffic is around five thousand per day, said Airport Health Officer. In Sindh any medical officer and above 19 grade official working at Basic Health Units (BHU), District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospitals are authorised to issue ‘International Certificate of Vaccination,’ so it reduces the pressures from us, Dr Anwar-ul-Haque.

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