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Sunday, February 5, 2023
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EditorialListen to polio workers

Listen to polio workers

In an effort to pressure the authorities into agreeing to their demands, polio workers stationed at the Torkham border went on strike on Wednesday and stopped vaccinating Afghan children. The 84 protesting polio workers, 12 of whom were female, were stationed at the Torkham border crossing to immunize Afghan children travelling to Pakistan against polio. They called for the payment of Rs 1,000 per day in stipend, four days of paid vacation time each month, prompt payment of their salaries each month, and accommodations for the nighttime vaccination workers at the border. They made their demands known to the relevant authorities. The protesting healthcare workers claimed that they were never paid on time for their wages. They expressed their dissatisfaction over having to carry out their duties both during the day and at night without a break. Until their four “legitimate” demands were met, they threatened to continue their boycott.

The only two countries that are still significantly affected by the virus are Pakistan and Afghanistan. Polio workers in Pakistan are essential in the fight against the polio virus. They are responsible for administering the polio vaccine to millions of children in the country, as well as helping to educate local communities about the importance of immunization. They also conduct surveillance activities to track the virus, identify cases, and provide support to families affected by the virus. Their role is essential for the eradication of the virus and the state must provide adequate security and compensation to them.

Polio workers have time and again been the target of terrorist activities in the country and have tirelessly worked to immunize the nation’s children against a virus that cripples people. Just like other health workers, they have a right to a safe and secure working environment and the necessary safety equipment and training to carry out their duties, as well as to fair and reasonable wages and access to health care benefits and other employee benefits. However, their basic rights are often sidelined. On November 30 of this year, a suicide attack was carried out on a team of polio workers. Usually, people who work in jobs that have a high-risk factor are given extra compensation for their services; these polio workers are not even being paid their hard-earned money because of poor management and a lack of basic worker rights.

This shows how weak the labour laws are in the country. People work day and night to earn for their families and themselves in high-risk areas with a constant threat of attack looming over them, and yet they go unpaid. It is the right of all workers to protest if their employer does not pay. The demands of these polio workers should be met promptly so that the country is saved from another wave of poliovirus attacking the children. The government and all relevant authorities should take action as soon as possible so that Afghan children entering the country are immunized against the virus.

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