Pakistan is one of three countries in the world which hasn’t yet been able to end the transmission of Poliomyelitis (Polio). Polio is a endemic viral infection that leaves its victims paralyzed, and as of 2015, 38 cases of Polio were reported in Pakistan alone. Whilst reported cases of Polio are declining, Pakistan is still considered to hold the record for the highest number of Polio cases.
Many factors result in Polio cases yearly. Whilst some parents refuse to vaccinate their kids, other factors include poor health and water infrastructure, natural disasters, and misinformed campaigns reporting that vaccinations contain pig fat or alcohol, both items which are forbidden in Islam.
Additionally, due to high population density and climate conditions, more doses of vaccinations are required and some parents are unable to administer the ten or more doses of the vaccine, as required.
Pakistan is currently taking action to combat the spread of Polio. More than 38 million children under the age of five years have been vaccinated after the country-wide immunization campaign. People are also creating programs to allow those who have been affected by Polio to still be able to gain economic independence.
On Monday, the ‘Network of Organizations Working for People with Disabilities Pakistan’, (NOWPDP) launched ‘The Rickshaw Project’. NOWPDP’s External Engagement Manager, Amin Amir Andani, said their organization focuses on providing individuals affected by Polio with vocational training and thus, economic empowerment. In 2017, NOWPDP was able to provide 350 individuals with vocational training, a commendable feat!
Owing to this success, and the receptiveness of Pakistanis to the work that NOWPDP does, ‘The Rickshaw Project’ was launched to provide economic empowerment for differently-abled people. This specific project offers people special hand-controlled rickshaws.
Mohammad Imran, Chief Rickshaw Driver for ‘The Rickshaw Project’, visits neighborhoods looking for differently-abled people like himself, and spreads awareness about the opportunities NOWPDP has to offer. “Polio in childhood left me crippled. People thought I was good-for-nothing, but I had to prove them wrong,” claimed Imran. Additionally, he has worked with a rickshaw manufacturing company to modify rickshaws for differently-abled individuals, adding his unique perspective to ensure that the modified rickshaws meet the exact needs of those they are being designed for.
Through this minimal-cost, modified rickshaw project, NOWPDP hopes to empower individuals like Mohammad Amin economically, and mentally, so that one day, Polio and the fear of the Polio vaccine may come to an abrupt and screeching halt.
The projects current business model is structured so that these modified rickshaws are leased out for PKR200 ($1.70) per day. Ultimately, the individuals leasing the rickshaws will become the owners.
As indicated earlier, there are a host of reasons why Pakistan has been unable to eradicate Polio. A lack of real facts on the disease and it’s vaccine, as well as a lack of funds have ensured that Polio continues to ravage Pakistanis, although to a lesser degree than before. Whilst there are programs in place to tackles the aforementioned issues, Andani hopes that ‘The Rickshaw Project’ will change the lives of those who weren’t able to avoid contracting Polio. Through this minimal-cost, modified rickshaw project, NOWPDP hopes to empower individuals like Mohammad Amin economically, and mentally, so that one day, Polio and the fear of the Polio vaccine may come to an abrupt and screeching halt.