Polio immunization drive to get back on track this weekend

Published On: March 4, 2017 12:40 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, March 4: The Ministry of Health (MoH) is planning to relocate the promoted health staffers after their protests reportedly affected the polio immunization program in 15 districts.

The polio vaccination drive scheduled for February 18-19 in 15 districts was believed to have been halted due to the protest launched by the health professionals across the country demanding their relocation after promotion as per the Clause 9 (B) of the Health Act. A total of 3,857 health staffers and workers were promoted about three years ago.

“We have rescheduled the polio immunization in these districts for Friday and Saturday,” said MoH officials. “We hope the program will be successful this time.”

The government has reiterated its commitment to create a pool for the promoted staffers as per the need and assign them in the respective areas as soon as possible, according to a notice issued for the third time by the MoH. “We are very serious about their demands. We will create a pool in 2-3 weeks to settle down the issue,” said Bhogendra Raj Dotel, spokesman at the MoH. “So we urge them to call off their protest and resume their services for the interest of the people.”

The health professionals have been staging protests since the last two months, demanding their relocation as the chief of health posts even though they do not have the degree of health assistant. The then government had promoted them three years ago on the basis of the years of service instead of their academic qualification.

“Now, they are demanding to be assigned as per their promoted designation,” said the MoH officials. “However, they don't have adequate knowledge on health issues as per the level of their post,” they added.

The polio immunization drive in 15 districts--Sunsari, Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Rautahat, Parsa, Bara, Kapilvastu, Banke, Bardiya, Kailali, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur district was reportedly affected by the strike. But the MoH claims that it was not halted by the protest.

“The polio immunization program was halted just due to lack of preparation,” Dotel claimed, without divulging details of the preparation.

Health Minister Gagan Thapa has urged the agitating staffers to return to their services. “We are serious to address their demands as per the rules. If they do not fulfill their duty, we will take necessary actions as per the laws,” he said.

The MoH has urged the Ministry of Home Affairs to provide security measures against any untoward incidents.

The government has the target to administer polio drops to some 1.69 million children under five years in 15 districts. Nepal received the certificate of polio eradication in 2010 and the World Health Organization announced zero polio incidence in the country in 2014. But the government has taken a decision to conduct such campaigns because of high risk of polio reoccurrence in the country.

The UNICEF will provide vaccines for the immunization program while the World Health Organization (WHO) will finance Rs 15 million for the campaign.

The WHO has targeted to eradicate polio from the world by 2018.

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