|E. Hogden of USAID vaccinating a child in Uluberia, West Bengal|
Tomorrow, 18 Feb, once again we will go through the Polio Sunday--trying to count if more children were vaccinated at the polio booths, and then throughout the week, counting the Xs (those who do not take the vaccine) and pray that there aren't too many resistant cases, and there are fewer children reported sick or out of home. It all happens in a week's time. To allure the children and parents to take vaccine at the booths, whistles are given by Unicef, balls are given by Rotary, and at times masks and caps! And besides that the ICDS centers are kept open so that children below 5 years can eat on a Sunday (usually ICDS centers are closed on Sunday) with an egg! Ooh.... the list of lollipops is getting wider and wider. This raises the fundamental question: are our programs really responding to people's perceived needs? The question is wrong as it tends to abdicate our responsibility to teach what is good for people. So, it must be placed as : Are we responding to the needs of people when we need them, or are we rushing to them to fulfill what we perceive as their needs, although selfishly, we want to benefit from the same as well? Now the question makes sense. If people's basic needs and need for health care, sanitation and education are not met, why should they vaccinate their children when we tell them to do so.
The issue gets further complicated when we look into the amount of money that goes into this polio eradication program. At what cost have we achieved a title "polio free India" for 14 months ! Can our dolling out of freebies ever teach people the needs of health care if our health care systems function hardly for few hours in a day? Answers are deeper than the skin.