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Maulvis roped in to boost polio mission

Behrampore, Oct. 31: For the first time in Muslim-majority Murshidabad, prominent maulvis will use loudspeakers in mosques to urge parents to bring their children to health centres for doses of the oral polio vaccine.

The district records the maximum number of polio cases in the state. So far, 14 girls and 12 boys have been found infected in the Jangipur subdivision. Forty more are under observation.

According to the director of health services, Prabhakar Chatterjee, at least 23,000 babies are yet to be administered the pulse-polio vaccine in the district. The situation was further complicated following a report that the disease is spreading its tentacles from Murshidabad to neighbouring Birbhum and Malda districts and Pakur in Jharkhand.

As yet, 31 children have been diagnosed as suffering from polio in these areas.

Moulana Muhammad Obaidul, the Imam of the Tarabagan mosque in Samsherganj, said: “We have asked the maulvis at the block levels to take active part in soliciting our community members to bring their children to the nearest health camp for the polio vaccine. There is nothing wrong in educating people about child healthcare programmes using microphones in masjids. Islam teaches followers to keep bodies free from diseases.”

Samsherganj and Suti have the maximum number of polio victims in the district.

Superstition and fear that the vaccine would lead to graver maladies had prevented large sections of the minority community parents from taking their wards to the vaccine camps.

The district’s chief medical officer of health Bijon Kumar Mandal said leaflets educating parents about the importance of the pulse-polio vaccination drive have already been sent to the masjids in Jangipur.

“Apart from our medical officers and BDOs, the maulvis will participate in the polio prevention drive. They will meet villagers in masjids after the day’s prayer to educate them on the efficacy of administering the vaccine to their children,” Mandal said.

Over 100 moulvis have accepted invitations to tour each block of the district with the polio mission. A three-day health camp will begin on November 17 to administer the vaccine to children up to five years.

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