National Polio Campaign Misses Children in the Capital

The new year’s first National Polio Campaign aimed to vaccinate over 34 million children, unfortunately like every year, there were children in Islamabad’s Zone-5,

who could not be vaccinated as no polio team visited their homes. Here in the capital, the problem was neither inaccessibility nor lack of security but an old boundary dispute between Punjab and Islamabad.

Polio

For the last many years, the areas of Zone V including Soan Garden, Police Foundation Pakistan Town, Alipur Farash, Media Town and different areas on Lehtarar Road are missed during polio campaigns. As it is unclear whose jurisdiction these areas fall in, neither federal nor Punjab authorities take responsibility for sending polio teams to these areas. Zaman Malik, a resident of Media Town told Dawn that whenever there is a polio campaign in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, neither city bothers to send a team. “This time too, we waited for the polio teams but they never arrived,” he said. “Both the government and the United Nations agencies have been advertising the campaign and trying to raise awareness regarding the importance of the polio vaccination but children in the capital await vaccination,” he said.  “Although this area does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) but in the past the CDA Health Directorate sent teams to the area when ever directorate was informed. However, we don’t want to request an authority every time because every child’s right to be vaccinated,” he said. 

A resident of Police Foundation, Khurram Shehzad said that during polio campaigns residents call the helpline but their issues are never resolved. “Because of bureaucratic issues, our children are deprived of protection against this crippling disease,” he said. When this reporter contacted the Punjab government’s helpline, an official said he could not confirm which areas are in the jurisdiction of Punjab. When told to convey the message to authorities that children in these areas are suffering because they are not receiving vaccination, he said he has no mechanism to do so. Director Health Services CDA Dr. Hassan Orooj told Dawn that almost 10 years ago, it was decided that North West Area of Islamabad including Golra, Tarnol, Mehra Badi and urban areas of the city would be covered by CDA and South East Area of the city (Zone V) would be covered by the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Administration. “However, following this clarification, the problem still exists.

Whenever CDA is informed, we send teams because I believe that every child should be vaccinated. However, it is the ICT Administration’s responsibility to vaccinate children in that area,” he said. District Health Officer ICT Administration Dr Muhammad Azhar Khan told Dawn that he was not aware that polio teams did not visit some areas as he was in Karachi during the polio campaign. “There was a territorial dispute with Punjab because and the boundary is unclear. In Zone V some streets of the same housing society are in Rawalpindi and others are in Islamabad,” he said. “Last year, I had a meeting with Punjab authorities and resolved this matter of jurisdiction. However, if there is still a problem, I will send teams in the area and every child will be vaccinated,” he said.