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The Moving Target Nasrin lives in a small thatch compound on the edge of a settled neighborhood on the outskirts of Kaifabad. I am at her house because her family is seminomadic, raising goats for a living. What polio eradication planners call “mobile populations” appear to be spreading poliovirus across Pakistan and Afghanistan. I want to ask her about the immunization status of her children and her experiences with the polio immunization campaigns. The dirt floors in her thatch hut and in the adjacent courtyard fenced off with thatch have been vigorously swept clean, broom marks still showing in the dirt. I sit inside Nasrin’s hut on a foam pad covered with a blanket, with a roll pillow for my back. A small boy brings me a tall glass mug of very sweet tea. Nasrin and her mother-in-law, Huma, who sit and talk to me, wear the full skirts that people in the Punjab associate with Afghanis. Nasrin wears a heavily embroidered, handworked shirt and a gauze shawl covered in sequins. She breastfeeds her six-month-old as we talk, then swaddles him securely in a few pieces of cloth and a strap and places him in a white metal cradle, her only piece of furniture. She has a radio, and her family has managed to rig electricity into the hut, but there is no television. Huma, sparkling and animated, has bells braided into her hair. Despite her very limited Urdu, she rapidly and smilingly arranges a marriage between my one-year-old son and her two-year-old granddaughter. Huma was born in Afghanistan but has been in Pakistan for twenty-five years. She spent most of her life in Waziristan, on the Pakistani side of the border, and has been in Kaifabad for four years. Nasrin, who speaks passable Urdu though she has never been to school, estimates her husband sells an average of two to four goats a month for around Rs. 2,000 (about $35) apiece. We talk about the health of Nasrin’s young son and eleven-month-old nephew, a small, weak child. The women have taken him repeatedly to a nearby private clinic, which they like because the doctor there speaks their native language. This doctor (who may or may not be a doctor— unlicensed practitioners flourish in Pakistan) has given the boy a number of shots and tonics, but the boy remains “weak.” I ask if any of the children in the extended family have received routine immunizations. No, Nasrin says. Why not? I ask. Was Nasrin, or someone else in the family, opposed to vaccination? “No,” she says. “I don’t know where they give immunizations.” Nasrin and others in her husband’s extended family allow their children to be immunized for polio whenever the vaccinators come to their house—which is not every campaign. Sometimes, they say, they see the women going door-to-door at the nearby houses, but their marginal compound is not visited. “How much are those women paid?” asks Nasrin regarding the vaccinators. I tell her: 100 rupees (about $1.70) a day. “That’s all?” Nasrin asks. “Oh, well, then obviously they’re only going to work as hard as they feel like [apnī marzī-se kām kartehein].” ...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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