Pataudi in Aligarh on February 10, on the eve of polio round.
By Shamila Sharma
“A team cannot win until all players collectively push for victory. The time has come for all of us to redouble efforts to beat polio,” former Indian cricket captain Manur Ali Khan Pataudi told polio workers in Aligarh.
Pataudi was in the city on February 10, the eve of polio round, to motivate vaccinators, supervisors, UNICEF’s community mobilisers and the community leaders and influencers who play a key role in the immunization drive, getting children to the booth and convincing opposing families.
“You are our frontline warriors, you are often insulted and sometimes even attacked, but undeterred you carry on with your good work,” he told health workers and block level community mobilizers of UNICEF’s Social Mobilisation Network, set up in the district in April 2002.
Families opposing polio vaccination, due to myths and fears about the oral polio vaccine, often abuse and threaten and sometimes even beat up polio teams.
More than 800,000 children upto the age of 5 years are vaccinated in Aligarh during each polio round.
Aligarh, which had 17 polio cases in 2006, falls under the high risk category for polio. Eleven of the cases were reported from its urban areas which are densely populated, characterized by poor infrastructure and poor socio-economic conditions.
The population is predominantly Muslim, with a substantial number of them working as daily wagers or labourers in Aligarh’s world famous lock industry.
Pataudi in meeting with community leaders .
Pataudi had a separate meeting with community leaders and urged them to take upon themselves the responsibility of clearing doubts in the minds of people about the vaccine and the polio eradication programme.
He asked them to ensure that every child in their locality is vaccinated, each time there is a polio round.
“I have come amidst you all to negate rumours about the vaccine. But I alone cannot do it. “Your help is important. Think this is your programme, we all have to work together,” he said.
Muslim religious and other influential leaders support polio vaccination by mosque élans, booth inauguration, seeking children from households, mobilising parents, and personally accompanying vaccination teams in the area.
The Aligarh Muslim University provides significant support in the area by organising regular immunisation outreach sessions and mobilising families to accept OPV.
“This is a national social work. With your enthusiasm we will surely succeed,” Pataudi said.
Upbeat by the appreciation of their work, polio workers said Pataudi’s motivational speech and his presence among them was very encouraging.
“To see a person of your stature taking interest in the programme is very encouraging. Your visit has given us new vigour to work harder”, said a polio worker.
A block mobilisation coordinator promised Pataudi, an ace batsman of his time, “we will bat like you did and throw polio out of our country.”
“We can and we will surely eradicate polio. We promise that your next visit would be to a polio free Aligarh”, he said.
Pataudi also addressed media persons and sought their support for the programme.
He left Aligarh with the message : “Where ever I go I will have you, the children and the community in mind. I will for sure come and encourage you and thank you for your good work”.