Polio Heroes: Latif’s Story
The Naunehal Academy School and Polio Resource Center in Karachi, Pakistan reopened its doors in September, marking the end of a long road to rebuild after the school was attacked and shut down by extremists. Polio vaccinator Latif Syed, whose bravery and resilience over the past six years was the driving force behind the effort to rebuild and reopen the school. Sanofi Pasteur provided funding to help rebuild the school.
The Naunehal Academy School & Polio Resource Center
I would go as far as saying that we have built a new world
His story is an inspiring journey back from tragedy that shows an unwavering commitment to eradicating polio. A polio vaccinator for over two decades, Syed co-founded the school and center in 2004 with his friend and colleague Abdul Waheed Khan for children living in an impoverished neighborhood, providing them with free education and access to immunization. The school flourished, growing to more than 1,000 students.
At the height of its success in 2013, extremists attacked the school, partly because of its connections to the polio vaccination program. Khan was killed during the attack and Syed was severely injured. The school was forced to close, leaving many children out of school and uncertain about their future.
When I wasn’t enrolled in school I used to drive around, or go around with a cart of goods, and at times work in a shop.
After months of recovery from the 11 bullet wounds he suffered, Syed moved to another part of Pakistan with his family and continued advocating for vaccination.
In 2016, Syed was recognized by Sanofi as one of its “Polio Heroes” for his years of dedication toward vaccination in Pakistan. He traveled to France to meet our immunization teams and learn more about the vaccine manufacturing process. His visit had a profound effect on our colleagues, as it connected their work to the real impact of vaccination programs in communities.
Pupils of the Naunehal Academy School participating in the reopening ceremony of their school in Karachi, Pakistan
During the medal presentation, Sanofi pledged to support and help fund the reconstruction of Syed’s school. In partnership with Rotary International, work has taken place over the past three years to refurbish the building, recruit staff and finally welcome back its pupils.
The advantage of this school is that they [children] can receive their education here, become somebody, help their parents by earning their own salary.
Teacher at the school