Union Council 69 or Afghan Town or sometimes known as Manzoor Park was where I was privileged to visit with UNCEF staff in order to choose for a wonderful program known as Polio Points. Polio Points is where students at the International School Brunei (ISB) do good deeds in their school and community to earn points. Every 4 points they earn, Standard Charted Bank Brunei matches it with a $1 donation to UNICEF Pakistan. This money is then used in their polio program and essentially vaccinates a child. So students in Brunei do good deeds and they help vaccinate a Muslim brother or sister in Pakistan – pretty cool eh!
One of my missions while here was to find a community for the ISB Polio Points and donations to go to a community in Pakistan. UC 69 is that community which is a polio high risk area on the outskirts of Lahore city, Punjab Province, Pakistan. Below is the introduction I have made for ISB to get to know their ‘adopted’ community to support UNICEF to support this community to support themselves.
Dear International School Brunei
We have your community that your good deeds, social justice activities and Polio Points are supporting. It is best know as Union Council 69 or is often know as Afghan Town or Manzoor Park (but no one really uses this last name – the nicest sounding one).
Your UC Communication Support Officers are Mr Niam Ansari and Mrs Shumaila Babar – sorry the photos of them I had didn’t turn out very well but Niam was wearing a red shirt and Shumaila is in the cream shalwar kamez. They are very excited to be a part of this program and I will be meeting with them more this Friday to give you better profiles of who they are what they do and their passion for polio eradication.
My impression of the community is that it is VERY different to where I have been working in well organised and clean Islamabad. It is not that it is dirty or smelly or anything like that – the people are people and they all have their hopes and dreams and get on with each day just as all of us do. However their chance of polio infection is one of the highest in the world, this is mainly due to the population of UC 69 – around 800-900 people on average, is highly nomadic coming from Pashtun speaking areas near the Pakistan and Afghan border. They have electricity (when it works, which wasn’t while I was there) and mostly clean water – not that I could drink it and not get sick. They don’t have any sanitation services like a toilet. The combination of no toilets and nomadic people coming from polio reservoirs in the Pashtun areas has them as a high risk community.
There are a couple of main streets in UC 69 with brick buildings including factories, some houses and shops. Then there are slum streets of makeshift homes and more dense population which again is a concern for polio transmission and other health issues. I visited one of the schools which is a lower grades school with a grade 9 student as the teacher that he does on top of his own studies. There is a mosque and in the time I was there they were making the announcements that the vaccinators were coming around and administering drops today. You can then see in the photos a child being vaccinated and receiving a purple pinkie. One day I will also explain the chalking done each household they visit.
This is to try and paint a picture of those you are supporting and trying to keep polio free. Here is a bit of an idea for where UC 69 is but it is not completely right but we hope to have some GPS coordinates and data to you soon when the UCs start using this technology on mobile phones soon – http://goo.gl/maps/Hr5DV
There is another community I visited in the Fortress Town that I will share with you later but it is UC 69 that is the focus of this program.
The people are incredibly hard working, happy, resourceful, resilient and we have just as much to learn from them, as we do in supporting them.
A huge thank you to Mariam and Samar from the UNICEF office in Lahore and for Niam and Shumaila the UCs who took me around the community.