Ulema and prayer leaders across Balochistan have agreed to persuade parents to get their children vaccinated against polio. This is a very important and vital step towards polio eradication, one that should have been taken a long time ago. The initiative was taken by Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), Balochistan, who organised a seminar where a UN official briefed influential ulemas for high-risk areas of the dangers of parents refusing vaccines for their children and what should be done to spread awareness. Their willingness to participate in the campaign just goes to show how much we undervalue the importance of informal social and religious networks to disseminate awareness about critical issues that plague our country.

Though Pakistan remains one of the three countries where polio is still categorised as an endemic viral infection, 70% less cases of polio have been reported in 2015 than in 2014, due to the successful military operation in the northwest. Convincing the religious leaders of high-risk communities to join the campaign is the best way to tackle the root of the problem. Many parents refuse vaccinations due to religious misconceptions and false beliefs instilled by conspiracy theorists of impotency if administered to children. The high success rate of eradication of Polio cannot just be conferred to the military operation, but also to the Tribal leaders and religious leaders in FATA who have been playing an equally important role for the last year and a half in changing peoples perception.

Another successful example of using the informal religious network was to take appropriate and effective steps to ensure safety and well being of Mother and Child health in Punjab. The high mortality rate of mothers and newborns was due to the alarming lack of awareness among people of backward and remote places, where they refused to allow pregnant women to consult doctors during their pregnancy. The campaign called for providing these women prenatal as well as postnatal care, and with the help of the Ulema, the campaign was a success in five districts of Punjab after which they called for better cooperation with religious leaders of districts beyond their network, to help spread the message.

The Punjab government also used their help for the awareness of dengue. These are small but powerful ways the government can use these social networks to drive the agenda for preventing violence against women, to ensure all children attain primary education and most importantly to promote peace and tolerance instead of creating rifts and promoting sectarianism.