Ulema to help eliminate polio in Balochistan

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A polio refusal coverage committee has been formed by the Balochistan government to help identify and influence parents who refuse to vaccinate their children with polio drops.

According to Dr Saifur Rehman, coordinator at the Emergency Operation Cell Balochistan, this committee has been established to stop parents from refusing polio workers to administer polio drops and treat their children. Currently, thousands of parents are skeptical about this treatment and they do not let their children get vaccinated, which is why there is a high risk of polio becoming prevalent in the province. This committee aims at controlling the situation before it is too late.

He further said that the committees would consist of eight members. It would be head by the deputy commissioner, while other representatives would include members of WHO, UNICEF, health officers of the district as well as religious scholars. It would operate in different areas of the province, including Pishin, Quetta and Killa Abdullah.

The committee’s task would be to advocate the importance of polio drops for which the role of religious scholars (ulema) is very important, claimed Dr Rehman. This is because many parents refuse polio workers simply because of vague, misinterpreted religious knowledge and the government needs the support of religious scholars to influence the public.

The ulema said that parents who refused to get their children treated were unaware and ignorant. It was agreed upon that Friday sermons and congregations would be used as platforms to teach people about the crippling disease and its prevention.

Meanwhile, one more child has fallen prey to polio in Pashtoonabad area, Quetta, raising the polio figures to four in Balochistan for 2015.

While refusal from parents has been a major cause for polio to still be present in Balochistan, there are other aspects contributing to it as well. For example, attacks on polio workers have also caused delays and breaks in the vaccination being administered promptly, which has led to children in many areas not being treated all together.

In June 2015, a draft for the polio vaccination act was presented in the provincial assembly which made it compulsory for parent to vaccinate their children from polio; refusal to which would be a criminal act. This law is still under debate.

In Balochistan, the rate of polio cases has declined since 2011 from 74 to 24 last year and four up till now in the seventh month of 2015. President Mamnoon Hussain is more optimistic and hopes to completely end this crippling virus within the next two years.

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