LHWs not paid salaries for three months

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While the increasing number of polio cases in Pakistan set the alarm bells ringing across the world, the lady health workers (LHWs) who are the backbone of anti-polio campaigns in Islamabad are living from hand to mouth due to nonpayment of salaries after the devolution of lady health workers’ programme to the provinces three months ago.
The LHWs have neither received their salaries nor have they been paid extra allowance for the last anti-polio campaign by the health authorities while the next campaign is due this month.
“We had to face great hardships during the holy month of Ramadan and Eidul Fitr days as after the devolution of this programme we have not been paid salaries and anti-polio campaign allowance,” said a lady health worker from Bhara Kahu, a suburban area of Islamabad, on condition of anonymity.
A majority of the LHWs are the sole bread earners of their families while some are widows and others’ husbands are daily wagers who have no permanent source of income. With delay in salaries, their daily family lives are badly affected having no other source of income.
Another LHW told Pakistan Today that they were living a miserable life nowadays for they didn’t have enough money to buy food. “My husband is a daily wage worker and in Ramadan he did not get any work to do. My relatives did not lend me money for the EID shopping of my three daughters as I have already taken money from them to buy kitchen items,” she said.
She said that for almost one year now they had not been given petrol allowance due to which they were finding it hard to visit far-flung areas to perform their duties, especially during anti-polio campaigns.
“Many of my colleagues don’t go to far-flung areas and use names of the children already registered with them and only provide anti-polio drops to the children living nearby or visit their homes for drops as they complain of nonpayment of salaries and lack of transport facilities,” she claimed.
Another LHW of the same area feared that the high-ups were threatening them that the LHW programme would be closed down after its devolution to the provinces as there was no need of lady health workers in the capital. “We pray that it should not be closed down as our families are dependent on our salaries,” she lamented.
On the other hand, while endorsing the importance and effectiveness of this programme, an NGO, Save the Children, urged the authorities to increase the number of lady health workers (LHWs) to expand maternal and child health services in the country.
“Health workers are the real heroes so we urge everyone in Pakistan and around the world to support the call for 100 percent protection of lady health workers and community midwives to prevent newborn and maternal deaths,” said Save the Children Country Director David Wright.