Several international humanitarian organisations have condemned the American Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad to track down Osama Bin Laden, official sources told The Express Tribune on Monday.
Organisations that have been providing medical assistance to Pakistan for several years expressed concern that the incident would create hurdles in other vaccination campaigns in the country. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the arms of the United Nations including the World Health Organisation and United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) have raised the issue with their concerned departments
An MSF official said that such fake campaigns would lead to several problems in providing medical services, as people would become reluctant to cooperate with medical teams.
“The fact that a medical campaign was carried out under false pretences is likely to damage public perceptions about the true purposes of medical services,” said MSF International President Dr Unni Karunakara.
“We condemn this act as it would undermine the efforts of those organisations that are dedicated to the provision of medical assistance in the country,” said MSF Peshawar Senior Director Dr Tufail, adding that people have started questioning the reputation of humanitarian organisations and non-governmental organisations that had been working peacefully till now.
Similarly, a UNICEF official, on condition of anonymity, also expressed concern over the fake campaign, saying that the campaigns against polio, hepatitis and malaria being run by the government would be severely affected by the incident.
“The Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) is already facing problems in the tribal areas, where people believe polio drops cause infertility among children. After the CIA campaign, it will be near impossible to gain the support of people,” he said.
Earlier, EPI Provincial Manager Janbaz Afridi said that the health department was launching a three-day polio campaign on Monday, during which 4.9 million children from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and 1.1 million children from Fata were vaccinated. “I understand that people have several concerns but I hope it will not affect the polio campaign,” he remarked.
Officials in the federal ministry, asking not to be named, said that a high level meeting chaired by Principal Secretary Khurshid Lashari also criticised the fake campaign and expressed deep concern over the incident.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2011.