At least 11,000 health care workers of Pakistan anti-polio campaign, who were also mobilised to fight the coronavirus, have lost their jobs since June due to the restructuring and funding cuts of the anti-polio program.
Majority of those laid off are women who were performing their duties in the provinces of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Arab News reported citing Rana Muhammad Safdar, coordinator for the country's National Emergency Operation Centre for polio eradication.
So far, Pakistan has reported 64 poliovirus cases this year, with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recording the highest number 22 followed by Sindh (21).
The decision to reduce the polio staff was made late last year, Safdar said.
During a review in Islamabad, attended by the former special assistant to the Prime Minister on health, Dr Zafar Mirza, it was decided to change the approach of the campaign and the working modalities of the on-ground teams.
Earlier, health care workers would be employed for the entire month and paid up to Rs 25,000.
"The nature of employment is now changed," Safdar explained. Under new rules, lady health care workers are only hired for 10 days in parts of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and paid a daily amount, rather than for the whole month.
Pakistan had recorded its first case of the novel coronavirus on February 26. As the caseload increased, door-to-door polio immunisation campaigns were suspended in March, only to resume on a smaller scale in July.
According to the Pakistan Polio Eradication Program, the country will launch a sub-national polio eradication campaign this week to vaccinate 34 million children under the age of five in 130 districts.