Two views of Pakistan’s polio problem

Two interesting and contrasting takes on Pakistan’s current troubles with polio. Both come from The Express Tribune. The first involves a family with three polio victims, including the first in Karachi for 14 months…

“We came to know about Dr Shakil Afridi’s alliance with the Americans,” said the father, referring to the doctor’s alleged fake immunisation campaign which led to the capture of Osama bin Laden in 2011.

“We thought that the polio campaign was being run by the Jews and Americans, so I wouldn’t let anyone give drops to my child,” said the crippled man, with face lines that showed just how deep and unforgiving his regret was.

But a comment piece suggests that perhaps not all of the problem is down to outsiders meddling…

Immunisation workers lack motivation and their recruitment is frequently prone to political interference. Merit-based recruitments and performance-based incentives could help address such problems. Procurement of vaccines and other required items, and maintenance of vital equipment is also poorly managed.

The low priority given to public health issues in general also remains problematic. Hoping that our policymakers will shift their spending priorities may be asking for too much. One, however, does hope that they will realise that focusing on immunisation drives makes good sense, since such an effort offers an economical option for tackling vaccine-preventable diseases.

The truth lies somewhere in between, of course, and is nowhere more obvious than in Pakistan’s tendency to use coercion in the absence of an effective communications strategy.

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