Gunmen kidnap six-strong polio team in K-P

By AFP
Published: February 17, 2014

Local administration official Niamat Ullah Khan said the team was seized some 300 kilometres southwest of Peshawar. PHOTO: FILE

PESHAWAR: Masked gunmen kidnapped a six-member polio vaccination team — a doctor, two local employees of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and three guards — in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) on Monday, an official said.

Local administration official Niamat Ullah Khan said the team was seized some 300 kilometres southwest of Peshawar, in Ping village at the border of South Waziristan.

A local official of the WHO in Peshawar confirmed the incident.

The kidnapping is the latest setback to efforts to eradicate the disease in the country, and followed a bombing on Sunday targeting a polio team in Peshawar which killed a policeman.

Peshawar is considered “the largest polio virus reservoir of the world” by the WHO.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping so far. But militant groups see vaccination campaigns as a cover for espionage, and there are also long-running rumours about polio drops causing infertility.

More than 40 people, including health workers and police guarding the teams which administer polio drops to children, have been killed in Pakistan since December 2012.

A new campaign around Peshawar, which started early this month, will continue until April.

It sees teams go door-to-door every Sunday across the city to administer vaccinations to children for various diseases including polio, tuberculosis, tetanus, whooping cough, measles and hepatitis.

According to the WHO, Pakistan recorded 91 cases of polio last year, up from 58 in 2012. Victims are left dead, paralysed or with withered limbs.

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