Mar 11, 2015

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where Polio

For the first time in 14 years, the number of polio cases in Pakistan surged past 200. By the end of December 2014, the country was hanging perilously close to another dreaded number: 300. Despite regulations by WHO and a 'polio emergency' being declared by the government, the number of cases continued to multiply and according to numbers on 31 December, Pakistan's polio cases had reached 296 as reported by End Polio Pakistan.
Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic but efforts to eradicate the disease have been severely hindered in recent years as militants continue to attack immunization teams and polio workers.
Polio cases in Pakistan reached a low of 28 in 2005 but rose to 198 in 2011. In 2012, Pakistan had 58 cases, while 93 were recorded in 2013, as reported by End Polio Pakistan.
Militants allege polio vaccination is a cover for espionage or Western-conspiracy to sterilise Muslims.

Zoom in on the map to see a break down of number of polio cases in Pakistan along with the number of workers killed. 
Source: End Polio Pakistan. ( Map shows data of polio workers killed in 2014)

A survey conducted by the district government reveals that 241 children could not be administered polio drops during polio campaigns in the district. The survey was conducted through the secretaries of 117 union councils (UCs) of the district.

In their struggle to protect children from the crippling disease, female immunisation workers have faced the brunt of attacks aimed at polio teams in Balochistan. Threats and intimidation have been a constant in their lives and the recent killings of polio workers in the southwestern province have invoked a deep sense of insecurity among the female volunteers and lady health workers.

COMNet provides the infrastructure and human resources necessary for large scale communication and social mobilisation interventions aimed at polio eradication throughout the country.

High risk areas in each province

Hecho con

Designed and Compiled by Shameen Khan
Map by Sajjad Haider
Source Extended Program on Immunization (EPI)
Photos by Agencies

Post Polio Litaff, Association A.C _APPLAC Mexico

Mar 9, 2015

Ann Lee Hussey, Rotary member and Polio survivor

March 7, 2015

Ann Lee Hussey, Rotary member and polio survivor

Left: Hussey joins Indian health workers as they immunize children in a Muslim slum in India. Right: Hussey administers the polio vaccine to a child in an Indian village.
With a fist pump, the health worker emphasizes her pride in participating in the polio campaign for many years.  She taps herself over her shoulder and explains she is like a warrior carrying a gun on her back, doing her duty, but quickly points out the weapon she carries is love.  This love is the secret behind India’s success in polio eradication, with an army of women spreading love as they teach the need for continuing polio immunizations. The women remind me of the song that goes, “Yes, love, love changes everything. Nothing in the world will ever be the same.”
India will certainly never be the same.  As recently as 2009, India reported the highest number of polio cases in the world and was predicted to be the last country to stop the poliovirus.  India has proven the naysayers wrong.  Follow a team of health workers during National Immunization Days (NIDs) and you will quickly realize the strength of India’s program.  Of the 2.3 million vaccinators involved in each round of polio immunization campaigns in India, approximately 80 to 85 percent are women who have worked in India’s polio program since it began in 1995.  
The Aanganwadi* women workers, with children of their own, have built trusted relationships in the neighborhoods they traverse, even in the most conservative of Muslim villages.  It is these women who have access to homes where men may not enter; it is these women who address mothers’ concerns and allay their fears; it is these women who share personal stories and educate with love and compassion.  
The vaccinators and social mobilizers wear a badge that reads, “Work for the welfare of all children and society.” This slogan is one that I think they have selflessly earned.   Traveling miles by foot, they work eight-hour days, during each eight-day campaign. Money is not their motivation, as they earn very little in the polio program; the health of children and their communities has been and remains their driving force.  
One only needs to walk the paths of these health workers, streets flooded with sewage where barefoot children wander, to understand how quickly polio could return to India were it not for the dedication of these workers and the commitment of the Indian government.  
On this International Women’s Day, we should give thanks to these exceptional women health workers of India’s polio campaign.  We have much to learn from them.  They have fought a long, hard battle against the poliovirus, yet they are not ready to rest, realizing the ever-present risk of the return of polio.  
Once the risk of polio is gone forever, these same women are eager to work on other health issues facing their communities. They will fight it with the same weapon that defeated polio – love. 
Love will turn your world around; and that world will last forever; Yes love, love changes everything.
*The Government of India in 1975 initiated the Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) scheme that operates at the state level to address the health issues of small children.  They trained women, known as the Anganwadi workers.
Ann Lee Hussey has participated in over 25 volunteer NIDs and has received Rotary’s International Service Award for a Polio-Free World. 

Mar 5, 2015

How We Can End the Anti-vaccination Feud

It is time to move beyond the blame game regarding childhood vaccinations and replace it with honest dialogue and outreach in order to ensure the current measles outbreak -- which has infected more than 170 people in 17 states -- doesn't happen again.
This follows a record 644 cases in 2014, the highest caseload since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared that measles had been eliminated in our country in 2000.
Continuing the current tone of confrontation will only aggravate the growing schism between those who refuse vaccinations and those of us who believe vaccines are the public's best defense against communicable diseases. The real public health solution is to identify common ground and talk to each other.
The finger-pointing is largely aimed at the so-called "anti-vaxxers," who accuse doctors, public health agencies and other vaccine advocates of shilling for the pharmaceutical industry. 
Many are affluent, educated parents who believe vaccines -- including the vaccine to prevent measles, mumps and rubella -- are linked to a variety of health problems, especially autism. A recent Pew Research Center study found that nearly one in 10 Americans believes vaccines are unsafe. Mainstream medicine and public health authorities strongly disagree, citing studies reaffirming over and again that the disease-preventing benefits of vaccines vastly outweigh any minuscule risks the drugs may present. And the link to autism has been thoroughly discredited.
As measles cases have mounted, the backlash against the anti-vaccine movement has grown increasingly hostile. Some parents, through mainstream and social media, are blaming the anti-vaxxers for putting children at increased -- and very real -- risk of disease.
Playing the blame game won't help. Yes, the key to quelling outbreaks is to increase immunization coverage across the entire population, and that means reducing the number of vaccine refusals. But we do that by building goodwill and trust, not through confrontation.
That's how the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has over the years been able to win the hearts and minds of parents wary of the oral polio vaccine in developing countries. 
When Rotary International began the polio eradication campaign in 1985, the disease was endemic in 125 countries with over 350,000 cases a year worldwide. Opposition to the polio vaccination effort in many countries was rooted in fear and misunderstanding of the vaccine and the overall effort. For example, in some communities in Pakistan and Nigeria, Muslim extremists cast polio immunization as a Western plot to sicken or sterilize local children. Despite such significant misinformation, the GPEI has vaccinated more than 2.5 billion children against polio, preventing 10 million cases of paralysis; and the disease is now endemic in only three countries and the number of cases worldwide last year dropped to less than 370. These extraordinary results were only possible due to extensive outreach and education programs. Rotarians in both countries have been especially effective in gaining parents' trust by working closely with traditional and religious leaders to correct the rumors in a culturally appropriate, non-threatening manner.
The Nigerian government cites community outreach as a factor in the success of January's immunization efforts, which reached more than 200,000 children and helped keep vaccination coverage. Nigeria has not reported a new case of polio in more than six months, further proof that our approach is effective. 
Granted, the reasons for refusing polio vaccine in an isolated Nigerian or Pakistani village, where poverty and illiteracy play a major role, differ from the reasons high-income, college-educated parents in the U.S. opt out of measles shots. But human nature is human nature, and people with firm beliefs will push back defensively if they feel threatened. The heavy-handed approach often doesn't work.
Vaccine proponents need to see the skeptics as the concerned parents they are not as a movement. Our shared goal is the safety and well-being of our children. Start with the common ground, and talk it through.
In developing countries, the many adults and children disabled by polio continue to provide a grim reminder of the consequences of not being immunized. The measles outbreaks in America provide a similar teaching moment. Every new case of measles demonstrates to all parents, including those who have previously declined vaccinations, why immunizations are vital if we are to give our children the best possible opportunity to grow up safe and healthy. An honest and open conversation is the only effective way to get there.
Post Polio Litaff, Association A.C _APPLAC Mexico

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