Solar panels defy militant efforts to sabotage vaccination in FATA — Pakistan Asia News com

PESHAWAR — Health authorities in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have installed solar panels in health centres to provide continuous power and to maintain the vaccine cold chain, ensuring children receive effective immunisations.

 Technicians install solar panels in Wana, South Waziristan, April 28. [Courtesy of Ashfaq Yusufzai]

Technicians install solar panels in Wana, South Waziristan, April 28. [Courtesy of Ashfaq Yusufzai]

PESHAWAR — Health authorities in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have installed solar panels in health centres to provide continuous power and to maintain the vaccine cold chain, ensuring children receive effective immunisations.

The effort began in January and has reached 200 vaccination centres in FATA, according to Dr. Ikhtiar Ali, director of the FATA chapter of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI).

The continuous supply of power allows vaccinators to reach more children even as the Taliban continue their campaign against immunisation.

Hospitals in FATA in past years had to contend with terrorist sabotage of power lines and other infrastructure.

Polio remains endemic in only three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

“Vaccination has suffered immensely due to the Taliban’s opposition in FATA,” Ikhtiar told Pakistan Forward.

“For the past two years, we have been trying to boost up immunisation and safeguard children from nine vaccine-preventable ailments,” he said.

FATA has a 30% vaccination rate, much lower than the nationwide 70% average, because militants in FATA terrorise and threaten vaccinators and parents alike, he said.

Taliban destroy hospital infrastructure

The Taliban in June 2012 proclaimed its opposition to immunisation in North and South Waziristan and other parts of FATA. The ensuing intimidation and terrorism wrecked vaccination programmes in those areas, exposing children to preventable ailments and causing several outbreaks.

Militants not only falsely linked vaccination to a supposed Western plot against Muslims, they also blew up the electricity infrastructure in many health facilities, making it difficult to maintain the cold chain for vaccination.

The installation of solar panels in 200 vaccination centres in FATA since January gives refrigators “continuous power” and has ensured the efficacy of vaccines that require storage under a certain temperature, Ikhtiar said.

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“Solar power is a big step in giving good vaccines to children,” he told Pakistan Forward. “This should be extended to cover all hospitals, especially in areas where electricity wasn’t readily available.”

Ihsanullah Shah, a resident of Bajaur Agency, said he recently took his three children to an EPI centre for regular vaccinations.

“During the Taliban era, one of my children got measles because of non-vaccination, but now the situation is good and the children are being immunised,” he told Pakistan Forward.

Shah denounced the Taliban’s campaign against vaccination and vowed to protect his children from diseases.

The government should install solar power in all hospitals, he said.

Read full on: Pakistan Asia News com

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