Since July 2012, at least thirty-one polio workers have been killed by Taliban-led militants in Pakistan. In more than a dozen attacks, unidentified gunmen opened fire on polio campaign workers while also attacking policemen. The virus remains endemic in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan; in our country alone, one and a half million children are at risk of becoming polio victims. According to the 2013 report by the World Health Organization, Pakistan has reported 75 cases of polio – 52 cases occurring within the federally administrated tribal areas. Due to lack of access and constant turbulence, polio campaign workers fail to reach children within South and North Waziristan regions, which has led to the deprivation of polio drops for close to 290,000 children.

Apart from the inaccessibility and the constant threat from extremists, families refuse to give polio drops under the ill-founded understanding that it is “un-Islamic” and given its terribly politicized status, many shy away from vaccinating their offspring believing that it is a ploy to sterilize them. Because of these reasons, polio workers suffer incalculable damage. President Mamnoon Hussain’s recent statement directed at religious clerics to join polio campaigns is, therefore, uplifting. He said that by raising the issue at mosques and other religious gatherings, misconceptions concerning the image of polio can be effectively dispersed by religious clerics and Imams.

The president’s call upon religious leaders is vital; imams can urge people to participate in the drive against polio and highlight the ramifications of keeping children unvaccinated. It isn’t a favor they will be doing to society by discussing the consequences of refusing polio drops; it is their social obligation as members of a community to bring forth light upon relevant conflicts. Considering how more than 47,000 children missed the most crucial vaccination in their childhood in 2013, some sincere and practical participation from religious clerics would help a great deal.