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Polio advocacy with over two million parents in Urs

BAREILLY, India- 15 October 2011- The annual Urs in Ajmer, Rajasthan, in the memory of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, a highly respected Sufi saint, fondly revered as the benefactor of the poor and popularly known as Gareeb Nawaz, attracts millions of people from across the country.

Interestingly, before proceeding to Ajmer via Delhi, the devotees make a stopover at Bareilly in western Uttar Pradesh to pay homage at a local dargah. While gearing up to host over 200,000 devotees from West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Nepal, the Bareilly  administration this year also prepared for administering oral polio vaccine to children up to five years among  the devotees.

The intervention was synchronized with similar initiatives in Uttrakhand and Rajasthan to ensure no child is missed. The district authorities in collaboration with WHO-NPSP, deployed 15 teams for 10 days from May 27 to June 6, 2011 at strategic entry and exit points,  such as railway station and the Dargah site.  A local NGO also set up a health camp for the devotees.

Banners and posters with messages on polio vaccination, endorsed by the dargah authorities, were put up and leaflets distributed
Ala Hazrat Express, a dedicated train for travelers to the Ajmer Urs passes through Bareilly with Polio banners and posters.
to the pilgrims at the dargah, strategic entry and exit points and the health camp.

Railways allowed display of banners on the Ala Hazrat Express, a special train for devotees heading for the Urs in Ajmer
and made regular announcements calling upon the devotees to ensure that their children take oral polio vaccine from the
transit polio vaccination teams present at the station.

As part of this special initiative, 10,414 children were immunized at different points in Bareilly during the Urs, among them 102 resistant families were counseled and mobilized to vaccinate their children. The intervention is part of the migrant strategy of the polio eradication  programme in India to ensure that people on the move are well protected against polio. In the last few years, most polio cases have been among either the mobile and migrant community or people living  in proximity to them.

Tracking and immunizing the migrant  and mobile population is the top programme priority. The intervention in Bareilly also helped sustain the community’s as well religious fraternity’s support to polio eradication.



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