Polio Vaccinator: 'I will not lose courage'

Polio vaccinators in Pakistan risk their lives ensuring children under five are saved from a preventable disease.

Last updated: 16 May 2014 14:27
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Note: The names of vaccinators have been withheld for their safety

Polio is a vaccine-preventable disease. Large scale roll-outs of free vaccines has led to large countries such as India becoming polio-free. However, in Pakistan, religious and poitical tensions have created a dangerous situation for the women tasked with making sure all children under the age of five are vaccinated.

They say that you cannot come into this area. That all this polio vaccination is an American conspiracy.

Polio vaccinator working in Karachi, Pakistan

There have been more than 100 attacks on polio teams and at least 50 polio workers have lost their lives since 2011. While no one has claimed responsibility for all the attacks, it is believed that they have been coordinated by the Taliban as retaliation for US drone presence in northern Pakistan.

In 2011 it was revealed that a Pakistani physician had aided the CIA with a fake immunisation campaign as a cover for locating Osama Bin Laden. This event added to existing rumors that the vaccine was coming from America as a means to control women's fertility, weaken children and sterilise the population.

The fear around the drops led to record numbers of children not being vaccinated against polio and new infections continued to occur.

One vaccinator lost her niece in an attack. In spite of the devastating loss, she continues her work as a vaccinator.

"I was happy about one thing. That I am a relative of these people who did not lose their courage. So if God wills it I will also not lose courage."

Another vaccinator explains the resistance that they face on a daily basis from families suspicious of their motives.

"They say that you cannot come into this area. That all this polio vaccination is an American conspiracy.'You are conspiring with the Americans to do family planning... You want to reduce our population and this vaccine is forbidden in Islam'. These are the arguments we get."

The polio vaccinators of Pakistan are some of the many health heroes profiled on Lifelines: The Quest for Global Health.

Lifelines: The Quest for Global Health   can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Thursday: 2000; Friday: 1200; Saturday: 0100; Sunday: 0600; Monday: 2000; Tuesday: 1200; Wednesday 0100


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About LifeLines
Lifelines: The Quest For Global Health
is Al Jazeera's new cross-platform project profiling the extraordinary work of global health workers as they tackle eight deadly diseases and conditions that afflict vulnerable communities across the globe. These good news stories stretch from the Philippines to Pakistan, Uganda to South Sudan, India to Senegal, featuring the people who are working to prevent, control or eradicate malaria, rabies, polio, leprosy, schistosomiasis, Guinea worm, river blindness, trachoma and maternal and neonatal mortality. Online, on screen and on the ground in affected communities, we will share their uplifting stories in Lifelines: The Quest For Global Health.
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