By: Muhammad Zubair
(In charge Public Relations, JICA Pakistan Office)
I hail from Swat, one of the remote and scenic areas of Pakistan. Being the only son of my parents and brother of seven sisters, I was held in love and esteem like a prince. My loving parents gave me every thing they could, except, few polio drops offered free of cost for my healthy and better future. My mother says that polio teams visited our house many times but I was not produced before them for polio vaccination. She, like others, was told by some illiterates especially the clerics (who are obeyed in letter and spirit in our region) that this vaccination causes sterility (stoppage of reproductive cycle) in a child; hence, I was not given the drops.
Today, I am 18 years old. I always wanted to join the Police Services of Pakistan with a commitment of helping the people and reviving the tarnished image of the Service. My twisted and aching limbs not only realize me of my marooned dream but a dismayed future too. Usually, I wake up in the midnight because my pain pills have worn off by then and various parts of my body ache, cramp, and twitch. The reality of facing another day of coping with post polio hurts me hard. I am haunted by the fact of getting weak day by day.
Sons in our society are not only the caretakers of their parents in old age but the heirs of the family identity which they should pass on to the next generation. The fear of loosing the title of husband and dad further engraves me. Instead of shouldering my father’s responsibilities, I am constantly adding weight to it. Becoming dependant day by day is halting my decision making capabilities. My Parents still love me but being humans, they do get tired some times and respond in an agonized attitude and helpless voice.
Few months back, I met a Japanese expert named Dr. Makoto Kobayashi, who is in our area for fighting Polio. After frequent meetings, I requested him to take me up as a volunteer member in his team and he agreed. We went to various parts of the locality telling people the purpose of our visit, advantages of and misconceptions about vaccination. To my surprise, the misconception and un-founded fear about vaccination still hold its roots in our society. Many mothers still think like my mother did. Few clerics even today keep the people away from vaccination and declare that any person, if dies of polio, is a martyr hence vaccination is not needed.
According to Dr. Makoto Kobayashi, EPI (Expanded Programme on Immunization) was started by WHO in 1974 for saving the lives of children through out the world and to eradicate polio from the Globe by year 2000. Unfortunately, in 6 countries the problem remains the same and Pakistan is one of them. In the year 2006, 40 cases of polio were registered in Pakistan.
It is a high time to join our hands against the disease because it is incurable, highly painful and physically incapacitating. The only thing a person can do after he contacts it, is to repent. When a Japanese person, thousands of miles away from his home can help us and our kids on humanitarian basis, why shouldn ’t we become active before some one else is victimized. So remember, Procrastination is a grave where opportunity is buried.