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 onLifelines: 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

Source:Al Jazeera