Polio Workers' Safety


We are living in a nuclear state which has developed ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, trainer/fighter aircraft, tanks and armed drones. But we are unable to ensure immunity for our future generations from crippling and potentially fatal diseases such as polio. We usually fail to address challenges because of lack of will rather than lack of resources. The campaign to eradicate polio demonstrates as much.

[...] Meanwhile, the dangerous trend of killing health workers tasked with ensuring that children are immunised during anti-polio drives continues. Not only are the health workers, many of them women, targeted, so too are the security personnel deputed to protect them. It is small wonder then that polio workers are afraid to undertake their responsibilities, especially when they feel the provincial governments are not doing enough to ensure their safety.

Attacks on polio workers can be prevented with some planning.

Our law-enforcement agencies responsible for providing safety to polio workers should spend a little more time chalking out their plans in a professional manner. It is not as difficult as it appears. When we know that polio teams are a soft target, we can devise a simple methodology, using resources already dedicated to the safety of polio workers, to reduce the threat and keep the teams secure. The police can take steps to make it more difficult for criminals to target the teams. Some of the measures are listed here.

  • A limited area for vaccination should be selected.
  • Polio workers should be escorted from the place of assembly to the vaccination area. To economise on resources and efforts, instead of sending polio teams and police persons in pairs, they should be transported collectively since they have to operate in one area.
  • Police teams (consisting of two to three personnel) should move ahead of and behind the vehicles carrying polio workers. This will make it difficult for criminals and militants to hit and run. Remember that these attackers are not suicide bombers and want to get away safely.
  • One street should be selected at a time for vaccination. Both ends of the street should be covered by police instead of having security personnel stand guard over each polio worker (this makes the law enforcers vulnerable to sudden fire when polio workers are targeted). Keeping the policemen at the end of the street will deter any attempt by the attackers who will realise that they can be hit by police personnel shooting from either end of the street.
  • Police personnel should stand at least three metres apart for their own safety and to increase their reaction capability.
  • One police person should face inward while the other should face outward so that they can keep a watch at every angle. The teams should carry out vaccinations in the secured street and then shift to the next one. The same procedure should be repeated.

The full article continues at http://www.dawn.com/news/1171097/polio-workers-safety on the Dawn website.

Photo courtesy of Dawn.