By: Cyrus Variava
Karachi: Can Two drops make or break a child’s future? Can two drops spare a child, a life-time of agony? Could just two drops allow a child to live their life to the fullest? The drops I am talking about are the polio vaccination, which every child should receive in the early years of his or her life, which can indeed shape their future.
Polio is a debilitating disease that has deprived hundreds of children all over the world of their right to play, study and more importantly ‘LIVE’. A life they deserve to. I can never forget the smile of a boy I once knew at school. I never saw him complain or appear sad watching the other kids running around, while he was confined to the company of his crutches. What barely anyone could see, or ignored, was what lay hidden behind that sweet, innocent smile. Surely, it must not be easy for a 12-year-old boy to sit and watch other children of his age playing during P.E. as he sat there alone, and his only means of involvement is cheering his colleagues.
It infuriates me to think that this child was deprived of fundamental right. He could have been playing with the rest of us, running shoulder to shoulder with his colleagues, if had he just received his polio vaccination in time.
The polio virus, as the name suggests, is a viral infection that attacks the nervous system, and in certain cases causes paralysis in the patient. Speaking in terms of numbers, if one child develops paralysis due to polio, it can be estimated that at least hundred more children in the area have the polio virus.
The problem is, this virus is highly contagious and often occurs in areas where sanitation is an issue. In Pakistan, matters are made worse as the polio virus can be found in improperly treated water, which often reaches water supplies leading to homes. In some cases, Polio may be severe enough to damage the organs and a person can even lose their life. This disease is incurable to date, so the best and only defense is prevention. Take it out early or suffer the consequences.
The drops are not very expensive and there are many free polio campaigns that are happening all across the country. An unfortunate truth remains that the Polio drives are not always successful. There is a constant threat to Polio Volunteers from radicals and extremist groups, and several workers have been killed in the recent past. This certainly does not mean that parents themselves cannot spare some time to take their children to medical centers and get them vaccinated for free, and give their child the right to lead a normal life.
Over the years Polio campaigns have become a sensitive topic and have become associated with a fair share of controversies. Some clerics in northern Pakistan have declared the polio vaccine as an ‘infidel vaccine’, as they claim that it makes the Pakistani children sterile. Some of them have gone to the extent of labeling these vaccines as containing ‘Haram’ ingredients. Thankfully, some clerics see reason and have given counter – arguments for these rumors, which have improved the conditions for polio drives in several parts of Pakistan, but obstacles still remain.
According to the WHO, 91 cases were recorded just last year in Pakistan, out of which many were left paralyzed and some even lost their lives to this dreadful disease. The numbers have been on a rise since 2012, due to obstacles faced by polio drives and poor sanitary conditions prevalent in the rural areas, which make them perfect breeding grounds for the polio virus.
Currently, Pakistan is one of the only three countries in the world which is still not polio-free, which is highly disappointing. The government needs to actively step in, if they want Pakistan free of such a life wrecking disease. This is indeed a tough task, but not at all impossible. Simple efforts like improving sanitary conditions, availability of clean drinking water and a regimen of two drops of oral polio vaccine to all children below the age of 5 years can help eradicate this issue from the face of Pakistan.
If our neighbour India, who has far worse conditions in rural areas than us, can do it – what is stopping us from doing the same? Just a simple message to the parents – WAKE UP to your duties; if not for your country, then for the sake of your own child. Its just two drops, that’s all it calls for. Secure your child’s future with just two drops. Gift them the chance to live a healthy life. It is there birth right.
The writer is a professional blogger and tech analyst working at Talk Android Phones. Currently pursuing MBA in Marketing from the Institute of Business Management (IoBM), Karachi.