As a frontline polio volunteer, Gulnaz is one of 100,000 trained Lady Health Workers, a unique group of female volunteers who are going to extraordinary lengths to wipe out the disease in Pakistan.
Pakistan is one of just three countries left where children still contract polio regularly.
That’s why the dedication of Lady Health Workers like Gulnaz is so important.
Every day she carries a heavy cool box of vaccines around Karachi, immunising newborn babies and children. She’s in a race to stop the disease, as any child not vaccinated becomes a chance for this deadly virus to survive and spread.
As she treks door-to-door in extreme heat, damp or cold weather, Gulnaz also faces harassment and threats in her attempts to vaccinate children.
“Some Pashtu families are reluctant to accept the vaccine so I dedicate special time to visit them. As a Pashtu speaker I can enlighten parents in Landhi, (a Pashtun area in Karachi) about how polio drops can keep the virus away from their children.”
Despite difficult conditions, the Lady Health Workers are still not short of volunteers. Every day, women like Gulnaz risk their own safety and walk for miles to bring the polio vaccines to the poorest and most remote regions of their country.
“I go to bus stops, railway stations, schools. I reach out to influential people to get their support. And I do everything I can to educate resistant parents.”
Full of local knowledge and trusted by her community, Gulnaz and her Lady Health Workers are critical to the effort to end polio and protect Pakistan’s 35 million under-fives who are most at risk.
“Every time I empty a vaccine vial I feel energized – it means 18 children have just been protected from a lifetime of disability. They’ll grow up healthy and strong and hopefully become Pakistan’s future doctors, engineers and teachers. It’s such a sweet feeling.”
The efforts of Gulnaz and her fellow Lady Health Workers have contributed to a 70% drop in cases this year in former high-incidence areas of Pakistan. However, if we want this good trend to continue we can’t stop now.
That’s why we are supporting the One Last Push campaign, which is getting behind volunteers like Gulnaz who are working tirelessly to drive polio out of their local communities.
Sign our polio promise today to make sure her efforts, and all the courageous women like her, don’t go unnoticed.
You can also spread the word and share this article with friends so that more people hear about the Lady Health Workers and One Last Push to finish polio off forever.
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