Village boycotts polio campaign to protest civic conditions

June 5th, 2009 - 1:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Lucknow, June 5 (IANS) Residents of a Muslim-dominated village in Uttar Pradesh are boycotting the ongoing pulse polio vaccination campaign to protest the authorities’ indifference to poor civic conditions in their area.
Residents of Sarvat village in the Muzaffarnagar district, about 350 km from Lucknow, boycotted the vaccination drive May 24 and said they will continue their protest till their complaints about poor sanitation, contaminated water supply, and lack of garbage disposal facilities are addressed.

“Not a single parent got their infant administered the vaccine under the campaign that day (May 24). They (locals) clearly mentioned that they will continue to oppose the drive even in the next phases,” Mufti Zulfikar, a member of the district task force of the pulse polio campaign, told IANS on telephone.

“We, along with the district administration, made innumerable attempts to persuade the parents, but to no avail. They remained adamant on their demands and refused administration of the vaccine to their infants,” he added.

Residents cite the deplorable sanitation conditions for the incidence of water-borne diseases in the village, which has a population of about 10,000.

“Go to any place around the village, you will surely find filth and squalor… clogged drains that have become breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects,” said Abdul Qayum, a resident of the village.

Residents also say they have been getting contaminated water supply for over last seven to eight months.

According to Assad Ahmad, they had made several complaints to the civic authorities, but to no avail. “We are compelled to consume the acrid water coming out from the taps,” he said.

Residents allege that the civic authorities are reluctant in carrying out cleanliness drives in the village. “There are several areas in the village, where cleanliness drives have not been undertaken for the last six months. With a strong stench permanently hanging in the air, you just cannot visit those places without pinching the nose shut,” added Ahmad.

With no garbage disposal system, residents are left with no option than to throw the domestic waste onto the roads. “In most of the village, you will not find any garbage bins, due to which the waste here is thrown out in the open,” said Shariq Ameen, another resident.

The boycott of the vaccination drive has made the state health department and the district authorities sit up.

“As the boycott can have serious repercussion, we are trying hard to persuade the villagers. We have even assured the villagers to formulate a master plan, particularly for their village, for improving the civic facilities there,” city magistrate Arun Prakash told IANS.

The state’s Director General (Medical and Health) I.S. Srivastava said: “With the state still grappling with the polio menace, the boycott of the vaccination programme is quite worrying.”

“We will make every effort to persuade the villagers. They (villagers) should realise that their protest can prove counterproductive and adversely affect their children,” he added.

Out of 59 polio cases reported this year till May, 37 cases have been reported in Uttar Pradesh alone. Of the 37 cases, eight are of P1 virus, while the rest are of p3 virus. In 2007, 341 polio cases were reported in the state and in 2008, the number of cases was 305.

Health officials say that detection of polio cases caused by the P3 strain of the virus is a big challenge. Unlike the P1 strain, it hardly responds to the vaccine. The disease, which is passed on through the faecal-oral route, affects children up to five years of age. It causes paralysis of the limbs and can be fatal in severe cases.

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