SAID ALAM KHAN

PESHAWAR - In a country where the number of polio cases has jumped to 138 during the current year, consistent efforts to raise public awareness against the crippling disease has resulted in a remarkable 26 per cent decrease in the refusal cases in Peshawar, which was declared as hub of poliovirus by technical experts.

According to the data of Provincial Control Room (PCR), downward refusal trend has been observed in Peshawar in the last two campaigns carried out in the district.

The statistics show that total reported refusal in June 2014 were 24,232 in Peshawar while the number was reduced to 17,874 in the August campaign, showing a decrease of 26 per cent in the refusal trend.

The Communication Net (COMNet) staff to support the government in carrying out communication activities has played a key role in addressing misconceptions and created demand for vaccination in the community.

The COMNet staff financially supported by United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) is an additional help to the Health Department in improving coverage of vaccinated children by adopting various tools of communication best suited to the issue. To raise public awareness about significance of immunisation and vaccine preventable diseases, COMNet staff holds community sessions besides providing fatwa booklets, involving local influential and religious scholars wherever needed.

The staff is involved at various levels of the campaign, including micro planning, meeting of Union Council Polio Eradication Committees (UPEC), coverage of missed children, refusal families and monitoring of the campaign quality.

The document available with The Nation revealed that out of 17,874 reported refusals in Peshawar, 8,835 have been recorded at the COMnet supported Union Councils out of which 5,200 were covered while 3,635 still remained.

It further reveals that the coverage of refusals remained 286 out of total 8517 reported refusals in the Non-COMnet areas while the coverage was 5,200 out of 8,835 in the COMNet supported union councils of Peshawar.

A total of 529 COMNet staff is currently deployed in the high-risk union councils of the high-risk districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while 15 more would be hired as per the requirements of the government. In Peshawar, 131 COMnet staff is deployed in 45 high-risk union councils of Peshawar while the remaining 52 UCs were without the support of staff.

It has focused on addressing misconceptions regarding polio vaccination and demand creation for immunisation services at the community level. The country has recorded 138 polio cases so far and out of which Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has reported 23 cases, Fata 102 cases, Sindh 11, Balochistan and Punjab one each.