NAsreen Bibi never saw the face of her killer. A 44-year-old boy who vaccinated children against polio in Chaman, Pakistan, had just finished his day’s work. While she and her co-worker Rashida Bibi (no relation) were waiting for the rickshaw at home, a motorcycle with two masked men slipped in front of them.
They didn’t say a word, but through the air-filled mandol dust, looking at the pistol held by Rashida, it hurts to hear the bullets when the bullets hit her hands, her thighs, her back and The stomach was hit. Rashida fell to the ground and she felt Nasreen torn to pieces, her forehead bleeding from the darkness.
“I started crying and screaming,” says Rashida. “I was lying on the ground and hugging Nasreen in my arms. We lay there under the blazing sun and no one came to help us. I was trembling but tried to drag myself against the wall. I begged the people around me for help, but the most painful thing was that no one came to help us. I will never forget it.
Nasreen died instantly in the street, the latest female victim to join the ranks of polio martyrs in Chaman. Rashida, 35, survived last year’s attack, but is now unable to walk or work to support her five children.
The city on Pakistan’s insecure border with Afghanistan, in the volatile region of Balochistan, is one of the most dangerous places in the region for women working on the polio vaccine program. Polio workers, men and women, go door-to-door to vaccinate children. But for women workers, doing their job is risking their lives on a daily basis.
This is the direct result of a large-scale anti-polio campaign by hardline religious leaders and politicians in this highly conservative region. He goes on to say that the anti-polio campaign is a Western conspiracy to coerce Pakistan, and is violating Islam by allowing women to work as polio vaccines. Female polio workers are often seen on the streets of Chaman.
Fake news claims that the polio vaccine has made children sick or die, have caused a stir on social media, leading to local protests against the vaccination campaign. Polio workers in Chaman and surrounding areas are no longer allowed to go out without security, but last month, a police officer responsible for protecting polio workers from being chased was shot dead, after officers officers Are reluctant to do. On Monday, a new polio campaign in the area was partially suspended when seven police security teams failed to show up.
Nasreen’s husband, Maqsood Ahmed, 45, said his wife was regularly told that she polluted Islamic culture and traditions while working. “But we had to endure it because he needed to support his family and children financially because I have a heart problem and I can’t work,” Ahmed said. “And perhaps his efforts will eventually make Pakistan polio-free.”
More than a year later, her family is still awaiting compensation for the promise to kill her, while Rashida has not yet been paid the thousands of rupees she spent on treatment for bullet wounds Which he repaid through a loan. Nasreen’s killers are widespread.
The religious blow goes a long way in explaining that Pakistan is one of only two countries in the world that has failed to eradicate polio. At Darul Uloom Rabbania Waqfiya, an Islamic seminary in Chaman, about 900 children and adults are being educated by Maulvi Abdul Ghani, a hardline religious leader who is a prominent voice in the anti-polio campaign.
“Working with men and women is against our culture,” Ghani told the Guardian at the madrassa. “Polio workers, men and women, go and meet after their working hours. They promote obscenity and pornography in our society and in our country. I don’t want women to go to any house for polio.
Another local hardline Islamic leader, Maulvi Abdul Zahir, often gives a sermon at the Chaman Mosque, discouraging parents from vaccinating their children against polio. Forbidden and The anti-Islam polio workers said that Zahir’s followers used to harass them at home calling them infidels. Zahir declined to comment.
Salahuddin Ayoubi, a local politician elected to Pakistan’s National Assembly, echoes hard-line sentiment. “This polio campaign is hurting our society and I’m not in favor of it,” Aubrey said. “Why aren’t men given all the jobs instead of women?”
Nasreen was hired for this job. He was paid £ 80 a month for his life, but in the poverty-stricken and illiterate area, where many villages were on the Afghan side of the border before the 2017 clashes, there was little work available. Is. Women feel that getting a job is a risk they have to take.
“People tell us it’s not for women and we’re ruining society, but I’m just doing it to support my children,” said Shirin Khala, a polio worker in Chaman. “People from Afghanistan also make our work a difficult one,” he added.
“I would never do this if it weren’t for my children. We are constantly insulted and American agents and infidels are declared.
The effects on Pakistan’s polio program are significant. The number of unborn children is on the rise, with parents sometimes pretending their children die to avoid the vaccine. In the latest polio campaign last week, authorities recorded more than 13,135. Denial in Qila Abdullah District, Chaman, one of the most polio-affected areas in the country.
A senior polio worker in Qala-e-Abdullah district said: “Some families falsely mark their children without getting polio drops and lie about it when polio workers arrive at their homes. Some send their children to their relatives’ homes, some offer excuses and some refuse outright.
With more than 25,000 border crossings between Pakistan and Pakistan daily, monitoring the immunization of children in the border areas is an impossible task. In the disputed border areas of Kali Asik and Waris, the Taliban have warned polio workers not to allow women to enter. To complicate matters, people fleeing Afghanistan to Pakistan’s border areas are equally reluctant to accept the polio vaccine.
But despite all these dangers, women polio workers in Chaman and the border areas are seen as an important step towards challenging the patronage society imposed on women in this region of Pakistan. Despite social resistance, more than 400 women in Qala-e-Abdullah District are now working as polio vaccines.
Dr. Shams Tareen was the area coordinator of the World Health Organization, which recruited women for the first time in the district in 2015. “The inclusion of women in the polio program is not only empowering them economically, but also in the most conservative district of Qala-e-Abdullah. Challenging old traditions, “she says.
Local Deputy Commissioner Qila Abdullah Tariq Javed Khan Mengal has promised to stop attacks on the growing number of women. “We have a strict security plan for the polio teams.” “We will deal with it.”
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