Farooq Sheikh in Varanasi for polio immunisation
By Shamila Sharma
Varanasi, U.P. 11 March 2007
Sunday, March 11 was not just another polio round for the residents of Varanasi’s old city areas. Film actor and TV star Farooq Sheikh was amongst them giving polio drops to their children and even knocking on the doors of families who hide their kids from vaccinators.
“Not giving polio drops to your child is like cutting a leg or a hand of your child. Polio is easy to prevent but impossible to cure”, he told the resisting families.
Dressed in a spotless white kurta payjama, Farooq Sheikh walked through the crowded narrow lanes of the old city areas, visiting polio booths, where he administered polio drops to a number of children.
At some booths, people had queued up, waiting for the celebrity to come and vaccinate their child.
As women and children peeped through the small windows of the old structures, housing hundreds of families, he appealed to them using loudspeakers, to come out with their children under 5 years for polio vaccination.
Farooq Sheikh also joined the vaccinators for house-to-house drive after the booth day. He visited two households marked as ‘XR’, a term used for those who resist polio vaccination, and convinced them to vaccinate their children.
“The vaccine will only protect your child against the crippling disease, it will not harm,” he told them.
Farooq’s visit was in Muslim dominated areas, inhabited mostly by traders and exporters of world famous ‘Banarsi sarees’, made of fine silk and woven with gold thread in beautiful intricate patterns.
Earlier, on the eve of the polio round, Farooq Sheikh met the community leaders, some of whom work as influencers with the polio teams.
“Our responsibility does not end with immunisation of our children. We have to ensure that every child in our neighbourhood also takes polio drops, because unless all children are immunized, polio virus will continue to circulate.”
Farooq Sheikh giving polio drops to children
“I appeal to you all, like you take care of your own children, whatever your reach, make efforts and ensure that every child is immunized in the present round and in all the coming rounds till polio is eradicated”, he said.
In another meeting with polio vaccinators and UNICEF’s community mobilisers, Farooq Sheikh lauded their efforts and said, “it’s because of your efforts that the number of polio cases has come down from 250,000 to a few hundred”.
“You can make history with your efforts. In this war against polio, you are our frontline warriors, winning the war depends on your efforts.
“I am here to support you. I have no doubt that your efforts will pay. We will surely win this battle… you have to go on undeterred. Only you all can do this job,” Farooq said.
Seeking media support for polio eradication, Farooq Sheikh said they had a crucial role to play by spreading the right information
“The problem of opposition to the polio campaign is not community specific but information specific. When there is wrong information, there is fear and doubts”, he said.
“It is your fight just as it is our fight”, he told media persons at a press meet, asking them to help make the polio drive a success.
Farooq Sheikh said: “We are not going to lose, it’s only a matter of doing it faster. We are 100 per cent sure that polio will be eradicated. We have to keep trying and try harder.”