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Movement of LHWs restricted for security reasons

By Ashfaq Yusufzai 2014-03-27
PESHAWAR: The government has restricted the movement of Lady Health Workers (LHW) to their own areas after attacks on the polio workers, according to officials.

They said that health department didn`t want to depute LHWs for carrying out anti-polio vaccination to enable them to continue their basic duty of providing primary healthcare services to mothers and children at community level.

Officials said that the LHWs project was given extension from time to time since its launch in 1994 on the basis of scientific evidence that the areas covered by LHWs had improved infant and maternal mortality rateas compared to those where they didn`t perform duty.

`LHWs are in spotlight since assassination of one of their senior colleagues along with her driver in a three-day anti-polio campaign in December 2012 in Charsadda,` officials said. They added that it was the only incident in the province wherein an LHW was killed in an anti-polio activity.

Officials said that LHWs were not involved in the anti-polio vaccination campaign directly but they would continue their routine work six-day a week to ensure their protection.

Every LHW has an office -health house in her home to maintain charts about women and children.

Officials said that LHWs played significant role in prevention of diseases through community-based health activities. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has more than 13,000 LHWs to provide free health services to the target population in different districts. Each LHW covers 1,200 to 1,500 houses in her area to admin-ister vaccines to children and carry out checkup of pregnant women.

`Immunisation against nine vaccine-preventable childhood diseases including polio is part of the duty of LHWs which they do every month,` officials said. There was no need to engage them in door-to-door campaign and expose them to militants, they added.

`Due to security problem, our 900 staffers in Peshawar district haven`t been taking part directly in Sehat Ka Insaf programme but they provide immunisation services to the children in their own areas,` officials said.

They said that they were not sure as to who was behind the killing spree of the vaccinators because Taliban didn`t claim responsibility for polio-related attacks.

Officials said that health department realised that involvement of LHWs in anti-polio vaccination campaign would affect their basic duty of providing primary healthcare to people. `We don`t want to create fear amongthem,` they said.

According to their job-description, the LHWs visit all target houses in their areas every month where they check vaccination status of the children and monitor their growth besides examining the pregnant women and giving referral chit to those requiring urgent treatment in the nearby health facilities.

Officials said that patients were referred to hospitals for anti and post natal care to avoid delivery-related complications. LHWs also provide pain-killers, vitamins, iron and other commonly used drugs to people free of cost besides recording their blood pressure, temperature and weight.

They are responsible to give advice to pregnant and lactating mothers in the household to help improve mother and child health indicators.

The LHWs are supervised by two male and female committees drawn from the same 10cality that monitor their performance and resolve their problems.