Journalists urged to help address polio eradication myths

10:00 AM, 21 Jun, 2024
Journalists urged to help address polio eradication myths

PESHAWAR: United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and other stakeholders have called upon journalists to play their role to dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding polio eradication efforts, which have led to the continued presence of this crippling and sometimes fatal disease in Pakistan and Afghanistan, despite its global eradication.
Speakers at an orientation workshop titled "Role of Media in Polio Eradication," arranged by the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with support from the Unicef aimed at educating media personnel on polio eradication said the media holds the power to shape public opinion through impactful reporting, thereby fostering support for polio vaccination, which is crucial for eliminating the virus in the region.
The workshop was attended by prominent figures including Unicef Program Manager Dr. Wisam Hazem, President of the Peshawar Press Club Arshad Aziz Malik, former president of PPC Muhammad Riaz, along with officials from Unicef, WHO, EOC, and senior journalists from various news organizations.
During the inaugural session, Dr. Hazem emphasized the media's crucial role in shaping public opinion in favor of polio vaccination, countering negative propaganda, and dispelling prevalent myths and misconceptions.
"Utilizing modern communication platforms, including social media, journalists can effectively address public misapprehensions, as there are still numerous direct refusals during vaccination campaigns," remarked Shadab Younas, Communication Officer at Unicef.
Shadab urged media professionals to support polio vaccination efforts by creating compelling human-interest stories, documentaries, and featuring neutral, trusted voices to change public perception.
"The polio virus continues to pose a threat to our children, potentially causing lifelong disabilities. Currently, 24 positive environmental samples have been detected in the sanitation water of various cities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa," she informed the workshop participants, mentioning that 12 of these samples were collected from Peshawar over the first five months of 2024.
"The most significant challenge in polio prevention is the refusal of some individuals to cooperate due to myths and misunderstandings. Media awareness campaigns highlighting the vaccine's efficacy and the severe consequences of infection are essential in overcoming this hurdle," Shadab stated.
The workshop aimed to sensitize journalists on accurately reporting polio eradication efforts, countering misinformation and negative propaganda, and understanding the significance of polio eradication and the media's critical role in achieving this goal.