From polio victims to polio eradicators, on the frontlines of Pakistan’s battle against polio

Polio frontline workers ensure that no child is left behind during door-to-door immunization campaigns.

For some of these workers, the cause of polio is very personal. They have been paralyzed by polio themselves, and today, they are the greatest champions and advocates of polio vaccines within their communities.

On World Polio Day, meet Rozi, Ashfaque and Bushra who are ensuring that no child succumbs to polio as they did.

Rozi Ahmed– Permanent Transit Point Supervisor, 31 Chaman, Kila Abdullah, Balochistan

Rozi Ahmed, 31, is using his exemplary tale as a polio victim to convince refusal parents to vaccinate their children. @whopakistan/Saima Gul
Rozi Ahmed, 31, vaccinating a young girl at the Friendship Gate PTP. @whopakistan/Saima Gul

​“I was only a year old when I contracted polio virus. The infection was almost immediate and within two days,I was paraplegic and also lost  function of one of my arms. Afterwards, my parents took me to several doctors and “mullahs” (religious scholars), but the disease was irreversible.

Being a person with disability, studying in a regular government school was too much of a hindrance in terms of physical accessibility. Consequently, I dropped out of primary school because I felt the environment was not inclusive for people like me.  Residing  near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the Friendship Gate, I would always notice the workers administering polio drops at border. As inspiring as it was to see their commitment to vaccinate hundreds of children every day, I noticed a lot of parents rejecting the vaccination as well. Seeing this, I resolved to work as a polio worker myself to raise awareness about the disease and the vaccination itself.

Today, I, along with 40 other workers at the Permanent Transit Point (PTP), vaccinate children every day. I hope that by doing so, my own example will serve as a cautionary tale for the parents and the larger community. I would not wish this disease on any child, which is why I am determined to end polio.”

Ashfaque Naveed- Area Supervisor, 31 Pawakai, Peshawar, Khyber Paktunkhwa

Ashfaque Naveed, 31, from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a committed worker in fight against polio. @whopakistan/Muhammad Shoaib
Ashfaque Naveed, 31, from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a committed worker in fight against polio. @whopakistan/Muhammad Shoaib

“Belonging to rural Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the polio vaccinations were not considered vital for a child’s health owing to misconceptions and myths. I was only a year old when polio virus left me paralyzed in my right leg. As a result, I could not walk or play like the other children.

Growing up, I was always on the outside looking in as I was never able to perform routine tasks with ease. Most of all, I was shunned by the community for being disabled. Determined to change my circumstances, thanks to my supportive family, I was able to get special corrective equipment and went on to not only stand on my own feet, but also completed by Bachelor’s degree.

I quickly jumped on the opportunity to work as a Social Mobilizer in the Polio Eradication Initiative. Since then I have sought to only vaccinate children, but also sensitize parents and the community about the irreparable dangers of polio and the importance of vaccinating all children under the age of five. I hope to see Pakistan rid of polio within my lifetime.”

Bushra– Union Council Polio Officer, 34 Lahore, Punjab

Bushra, 34, determine to end polio to secure the future of children from permanent disability. @whopakistan/Anum Khan

“The biggest fear in a parent’s life is seeing their child falling sick. One of my legs were paralyzed due to polio at just three months old. Since then, it has been an ordeal for my family and I.

Growing up, I was left out from sports, and being an avid sports fan, the experience was very isolating for me. The community members, my teachers, and fellow students often pitied my condition. These unfortunate circumstances made me all the more determined in fighting polio within my community.

For the past three years, I have been working as a Union Council Polio Officer in the Polio Eradication Team. Although the polio programme has made tremendous progress, the biggest threat to this programme is the lack of awareness and convincing parents is a big challenge. By now, I have vaccinated hundreds of children, and I will continue to do so until we wipe off polio from within our country and communities.”

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