The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Polio meet to beat superstition

Behrampore, Nov. 12: Health officials who have been grappling with superstitions in trying to tackle the growing incidence of polio in rural Bengal today met religious leaders seeking their help in increasing awareness and fighting the menace.

Several districts, with Murshidabad topping the list, have recorded an increasing incidence of polio despite an intensive vaccination programme.

Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee and health and family welfare commissioner R.C.S. Kahlon met imams from prominent mosques and monks from a couple of Hindu religious orders with an eye to the two-day pulse polio vaccination programme beginning November 17.

Several representatives of NGOs and teachers were also briefed on ways to get around the superstitions that have made people shy away from the vaccination camps and even door-to-door campaigns.

The latest case of polio was detected at Lalkhandia village in Raghunathgunj. The total number of polio cases detected so far is 32, with 27 of them in Murshidabad alone.

Chatterjee told the meeting that out of 9 lakh infants in the district, 37,000 had not been vaccinated against polio. “We are targeting a 100 per cent success rate in the coming pulse polio programme and are appealing to the religious leaders to help make this come true,” he said.

The health officials, however, were not happy with the attendance of religious leaders from the Jangipur subdivision, which recorded the maximum number of polio cases in the district and the largest number of infants to have not been administered the oral polio vaccine. Despite intense campaigning in the affected areas, only 12 imams and a monk each from the Ramakrishna Mission and Bharat Sevashram Sangha attended today’s meeting.

The only imam present from Jangipur, Maulana Moinuddin, said the efficacy of the polio vaccine in preventing the disease should be properly projected. “Hazrat Mohhamad has said all ailments have a cure, only death does not. Though polio has no cure, people should be told there is a medicine that prevents it from happening,” the imam said.

Swami Shibnathnanda, secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission, Sargachhi, said the health department is doing its job and it is the duty of the religious leaders to respond.

“We have roped in every teacher in all the schools for the next vaccination drive, the teachers will rope in the students who will see to it that every new-born in their locality is vaccinated,” said the district magistrate.

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