WHO suspends polio drive in Peshawar after shooting

WHO spokesperson says drive will remain suspended until the security situation returns to normal.

Reuters May 28, 2013
A woman holds her child as she walks past police-men outside a polio vaccination center in Karachi on January 8, 2013. PHOTO: AFP/ FILE

PESHAWAR:  The World Health Organisation suspended its polio eradication campaign in Peshawar on Tuesday after two young workers were shot as they administered drops, the latest attack aimed at the UN-backed operation.

The victims of the shooting were aged 18 and 20. Police said both had died, but medical sources said one had died and one was seriously wounded.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, though many extremists, including Taliban militants, have long opposed the campaign, convinced that the anti-polio drive is a Western plot to sterilise Muslims.

The United Nations in Pakistan pulled all staff involved in the campaign off the streets last December. Immunisation continued in some areas without UN support although many workers refused to go out.

"They were administering polio drops when they were attacked," police officer Siraj Ahmed said.

WHO spokesperson Maryam Younas said the organisation was temporarily suspending its polio vaccination drive in Peshawar.

"Operations will remain suspended in Peshawar until the security situation returns to normal," she said.

The latest violence has raised fresh questions over stability in the South Asian nation.

Critics say the attacks on the health workers are a prime example of the government's failure to formulate a decisive policy on tackling militancy, despite pressure from key ally the United States, the source of billions of dollars in aid.

Polio crippled thousands of people every year in rich nations until the 1950s. As a result of vaccination, it is now only endemic in three countries – Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.


Mirza | 9 years ago | Reply

As long as the elected leaders of KPK are vaccinated and their families are also safe they would not condemn openly and will not show disgust over the terrorism against the health workers. The world organizations must stop all their activities as we do not want them here otherwise our million man army and TTP supported leaders would protect health workers. What a shame there is no outrage against the terrorists by the elected rightwing leaders.

Enlightened | 9 years ago | Reply

Can the state hold negotiations with those who kill health workers and innocent people ?

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