By Jawahir Habib (Click here to see the blog site for all of this author's Communication Initiative blogs.)
Thousands of Kilo meters away from the hassle and bustle of capital Islamabad away from the buildings and apartments there are children who are still living in caves. The two drops of polio vaccine is the only health service these children have received and maybe it will be the only health service she will ever receive.
Balochistan is 45% of the land of Pakistan and only 5% of the population, which brings the population density in the province to 18.9 per square kilometer. Balochistan is known for its rich natural resources and 770 Km stretch of costal line. The province has the lowest health and education indicators in the country maternal mortality ration and Infant mortality rate are almost twice as that of Pakistan. In rural Balochistan only 15% of women are literate. The 1998 Population census reported 25% literacy rate for 10 years and over in the province.
Highly dispersed population, frequent population moment from cross borders, seasonal migration within the country and internal displacement due to conflicts have proved to be a great challenge for the Polio Eradication Campaigns. Global Polio Eradication Initiative has brought down number of children who are crippled by polio from hundreds of thousands to a few hundred children, with Pakistan and Afghanistan being the last reservoir for the virus. The number of polio cases in Balochistan dramatically increased from 12 in 2010 to 73 in 2011 which was 40% of the case load of the country.
During my visit to Noshki which happens to be my hometown though I wasn’t born and brought up there I saw a picture lying in a government officials desk a young child being vaccinated in a cave. I was shocked to see that people still in caves that too people from where I belong. For many children in Balochistan Polio vaccine is the only service they receive at their door steps this thought keeps me going, keeps me traveling this last mile.
This population lives in caves at Pak-Afghan border; polio teams reach these caves through after a one and a half our motorcycle ride. “Sometimes we cannot get to the caves, due to harsh weather or conflict between Nato forces and Taliban” said the vaccinator. These caves are located kilometers apart 30-40, cave families have been located and more than 50 under five children are vaccinated against polio when team has access to the area.
Recently an intense human resource support has been launched in high risk areas of Balochistan, who will be working in a structure similar to that of SmNet in India. This human resource will focus on improved micro planning for communication activities, working on culture specific and culture sensitive activities and disseminating messages through local traditional channels as mosque miking, vehicle announcements and tribal/religious community meetings. This new structure will strengthen community engagement and local partnerships aiding the identification and access to High Risk Groups and Inaccessible populations.
From Davos to Geneva and New York to Islamabad and to the caves of Noshki Balochistan, this is huge this initiative is. Reaching the unreached and accessing the inaccessible.
Disclaimer [from this blog's author, jawahir]: (Views and opinions with this Blog represent my own and not those of people, institutions or organizations I am affiliated with unless stated explicitly. My Blog is not affiliated with; neither does it represent the views, position or attitudes of my employer)