Communication support to the polio eradication programme
|Communication support to the polio eradication programme|
Until a few months ago, Yaseem and his wife used to hide their four children from the polio vaccinators and volunteers, often slamming the door on their faces, fearing the polio vaccine.
The couple would avoid the polio volunteers who made frequent trips to their house in Moradabad’s Meena Nagar locality, inhabited mostly by small shopkeepers and labourers working in brassware units.
Yaseem’s was among the 30 families of the small locality comprising about 680 houses in Moradabad’s Karula, marked as ‘XR’, a terminology used to describe families resisting polio vaccination.
“My wife was told by neighbours that the vaccine will have ill effect after 20 years and our children will become infertile,” says Yaseem.
“We believed them and stopped giving polio drops to our children. For almost two years we did not vaccinate our children,” he admits.
But the polio volunteers continued their efforts and finally Yaseem relented in September this year, giving them a patient hearing. A few more meetings made Yaseem realize the importance of vaccinating his children against polio.
“I realised I was making a grave mistake, putting my children at risk of getting a disease which could incapacitate them.”
“My father-in-law, who works at the government hospital in Bareilly, also helped clear our misconceptions about the vaccine,” he says.
In the November polio round, Yaseem and his wife Nusrat were among the first to vaccinate their children on the very first day.
Also, they are trying to bring all misguided parents on track to help eradicate polio.
Children left out during immunization rounds are at risk of getting and spreading polio, they tell neighbours.
Yaseem, who works as a welder at a nearby shop, also takes time out from his job to accompany the polio team as an influencer.
He has been very effective as an influencer, says Mateem Ahmad, Block Community Mobiliser with UNICEF’s social mobilization network, cornerstone of communication support to the polio eradication programme in Uttar Pradesh.
“In the last two months, the number of resisting households has declined to eight in Meena Nagar. Yaseem and his wife are also playing a very important role,” he said.
Nusrat Jahan held a ‘Milad’, a meeting of Muslim women to discuss religious issues, in her house on November 20, to tell the resisting households about the importance of polio vaccination.
“I went to each of these households and ensured that their women participate in the meeting”, she says.
“We are doing whatever we can,” says Nusrat, who wants to actively participate in the polio eradication programme by becoming a community mobiliser with UNICEF, but is forbidden by her conservative family.
Mateen recalls how the couple gave the UNICEF community mobiliser a tough time and the several rounds he made to their house. But Yaseem and Nusrat laugh it off as their foolishness.
“We will not let it happen again to anyone. We will do whatever we can to ensure that every child in our neighbourhood is immunized against polio,” they pledge.