KARACHI: Lady Health Workers (LHWs) of National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Health Care, Sindh, which is also known as Lady Health Workers Programme (LHWP), warned of boycotting the upcoming polio immunisation campaign due to non-payment of salaries.
The LHWs have not been paid their salaries for the past three months, and would boycott the campaign, scheduled to begin from January 6, 2014 in the province.
According to All Pakistan Lady Health Worker Employee Association (APLHWEA) chairperson Khairunisa Aihsan, a large number of LHWs and other staff belong to the Christian community, and with Christmas round the corner, the situation has turned grave.
"We have not been paid for the past six months, and if the situation persists, we will have no choice but to boycott the anti-polio campaign," she said.
A large number of the LHWs from different parts of the city thronged the streets to protest against the non-payment of their dues and held a demonstration at Karachi Press Club. They were chanting slogans and carrying banners and placards in favour of their demands.
Talking about the importance of the polio campaign, another office bearer of the organisation said that the salaries are already meagre for the services rendered.
"We are already given a very small amount in salaries, and if even that amount is not paid on time, then we have no other option but to go on strike," Naseem Munir, an office bearer of the association said to the media.
Moreover, the administration of the project has also accepted the backlog on their part, and stated they will try to resolve the matter as soon as possible, in the next few days.
National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Health Care Project Coordinator Dr Roshan Bhatti confirmed that the LHWs have not been given their salaries for the past three months. However, the coordinator also claimed that the salaries would be dispatched within the next few days.
"The Federal government is supposed to issue the salaries and every time their salaries are issued in instalments, which means three or four salaries are dispatched at the same time. I have personally talked to the Federal government and in the next few days, their three months salaries will be issued," Bhatti told Daily Times.
On a question, he said that his department would not be able to pay salaries to Christian LHW prior to Christmas.
"When Federal or provincial governments are not issuing salaries, how can we do so, especially since they are not on daily wages or on contract," he asked.
National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Health Care, also known as the Lady Health Workers Programme (LHWP) was launched in 1994 by Government of Pakistan with the objective of reducing poverty through providing essential primary health care services to communities and improving national health indicators.
Initially, the programme objectives were to contribute to the overall health sector goals of improvement in maternal, newborn and child health; provision of family planning services; and integration of other vertical health promotion programmes.
It was a countrywide programme, initiated with community participation, extending health services to the rural population and urban slum communities. A total 100,000 LHWs were deployed to cover more than 65 percent of the target population.
"In Sindh there are around 25,000 LHWs and Lady Health Visitors (LHV) and we are running almost all the basic immunisation programmes including EPI, polio, etc, but we are always neglected. We are never given government job and despite running such important immunisation programmes, we are still working as contract employees," said Naseem Munir.
The programme contributes directly to MDG goals number 1, 4, 5 and 6 and indirectly to goal number 3 and 7. International partners offer support in selected domains in the form of technical assistance, trainings or emergency relief.
"We are constantly risking our lives, and many of our teams were attacked. Several LHWs were killed during polio immunisation, but we were never given proper security. Even the families of those who have been killed are left destitute by the government," she said.
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