ISLAMABAD-Dozens of polio workers on Monday staged a protest outside the World Health Organization (WHO) office against non-renewal of their job contracts.

Union Council Polio Officers (UCPOs) gathered outside the WHO country office and protested against their suspension from job. Carrying placards about their suspension from jobs, the protesting polio workers demanded restoration of their jobs.

“We want justice,” polio workers held sloganeering.Representative of the UCPOs Imdad Hussain Turi said that around 1,800 workers and their job contracts have been ended by the WHO. He said that UCPOs were recruited in 2011 when polio was at peak, but now their job contracts have been ended by the WHO.

The protestors alleged that UCPOs are being deprived of their jobs despite availability of funds.

In an application written to the WHO head office Pakistan, the UCPOs said that we the UCPOs from all across Pakistan would like to seek your kind attention toward our graver issue of not granting extension in our contract resultantly half of the UCPOs were fired. The experience they gained during their tenure of employment will become useless.

It said that we fought a real fight against polio despite all threats to our lives and facing humiliation in areas where parents refused to vaccinate their children. 

We served in much difficult time against polio, and offered sacrifices being frontline warriors against polio, and we were fired from our jobs leaving at our own mercy and jobless.

It also added that many of us sacrificed their lives for the great noble cause of serving humanity. Despite all difficulties, we delivered our best in routine immunisation, outreach vaccination sessions, measles campaigns, AFP surveillance, polio vaccination monitoring, area in charge training facilitation, teams training facilitation, micro plan preparation help data and tally sheet analysis and social mobilisation.

“In spite of our core competencies we are being fired. By this way the program will be badly impacted,” said the application.

Not only we fought against polio but we supported, assisted and facilitated the COVID-19 control team and played a vital role in creating awareness about the pandemic, UCPOs said.

“We traced the people who came from foreign countries, helped them and followed up COVID-19 positive cases both at the quarantine centres and home quarantined. We had been convincing people about COVID-19 in far flung areas,” it said.

UCPOs in the application said that they spent their career making time with the organisation with an average experience of 6 to 10 years. Our joblessness will leave our families hungry and we are now over-age and ineligible to apply for any government job.

They said that it is therefore appealed to please take notice of this injustice and kindly stop the transformation and new recruitment process and rehire all the educated, experienced, trained UCPOs and adjust them at own UCs  to complete the main goal of polio eradication.

We consider that with the transformation of new policy, the polio programme will be badly affected and our career will suffer.