Afridi campaign: WHO rejects claim of UN involvement

Published: May 13, 2014
Dr Shakil Afridi. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Dr Shakil Afridi. PHOTO: AFP/FILE


The World Health Organi­sation (WHO) on Monday contested Pakistan’s claim that UN agencies were used in the CIA’s fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad in 2011 to track down Osama bin Laden.

The public health arm of the UN took exception to the statement by foreign ministry spokesperson Tasnim Aslam during a weekly news briefing last Thursday, and insisted that the world body had nothing to do with the Shakil Afridi controversy.

The foreign office spokeswoman had claimed that Pakistan’s efforts to eradicate the poliovirus were undermined by the fake vaccination campaign in which some UN agencies were also used.

In a statement issued here on Monday, WHO officials said that the UN has formally objected to Islamabad’s contention, following which it immediately received assurances that the statement made by the FO spokesperson was categorically incorrect and made in error.

“WHO welcomes this clarification by the government and trusts that the erroneous statement will be fully retracted,” it stated.

The health body expressed concern over the circulation of an “incorrect statement” that was made during a press conference convened by the foreign ministry on May 8. The WHO maintained that the statement alleged the involvement of UN agencies in actions supervised by Afridi.

The WHO reaffirms its position that all health programmes, including immunisation campaigns, must be used only for protecting and promoting health.

“WHO continues to categorically deplore the use of health interventions for any other reason and reiterates that there is absolutely no connection whatsoever between WHO and the ‘fake vaccination campaign’ conducted by Dr Afridi,” read the statement.

In the statement, the WHO reiterated its commitment and support to the government and people of Pakistan in their efforts to implement polio eradication strategies.

Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Saira Afzal Tarar also expressed her reservations over the FO’s statement in which it has linked UN agencies with Shakeel Afridi.

“Although UN is supporting Pakistan in numerous humanitarian projects, Afridi’s incident and fake polio vaccinations are damaging their efforts,” she said.

Gates to the rescue

A senior official close to the PM Polio Cell on the condition of anonymity said Dr Waqar Ajmal, a special representative of Bill Gates and Melinda Foundation for polio eradication in Pakistan and Afghanistan, has arrived Islamabad on Monday.

He will meet all the higher-ups of federal and provincial health ministries dealing with polio and will discuss the strengthening of accountability and management at district level.

He will also talk about reviewing, strengthening, effective implementation and sustainability of the National Emergency Action Plan for Polio Eradication.

In its mission statement, the foundation maintains that it works alongside partners on innovative ways to enhance polio surveillance and outbreak response, accelerate the development and use of safer and more effective polio vaccines, and galvanise financial and political support for polio eradication efforts.

In response to a query reading procurement of polio vaccine for the implementation of the strategy in the aftermath of travel restrictions imposed on Pakistan, the official said, “Though both federal and provinces will use polio vaccine from the available stock of vaccines for routine immunisation under the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) and for anti-polio drives, it is feared that a shortage of polio vaccines may ensue in the country.”

EPI National Manger Dr Ejaz Khan said , “We have clearly conveyed to the provinces that they should procure polio vaccines on their own.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • ZH
    May 13, 2014 - 8:51AM

    It is a habit of our leaders to say whatever they want without having a control on their mouths and later regret and apologize for it thus creating an embarrassing situation to the whole nation in front of the world…………..


  • Realist
    May 13, 2014 - 9:30AM


    On the contrary, sometimes they say correct things but then have go back to same institutions for loans and thus have to retract those factual statements.


  • May 13, 2014 - 9:30AM

    Dont be too sure about who, americans can get Very dirty in their tricks


  • May 13, 2014 - 9:30AM

    Dont be too sure about who, americans can get Very dirty in their tricks


  • goldconsumer
    May 13, 2014 - 9:43AM

    I remember the movie Argo. A fake Hollywood Production company was set up to fool the Iranians. They should also issue an statement that Hollywood collaborated in extraction of “criminals” from their motherland!
    I just M/s Tasneem and Co. had some credible evidence to support her claim. A defamation claim is on its way from UN now!


  • Professor
    May 13, 2014 - 11:06AM

    Unfortunately, truth is not a priority in Pakistan. In fact, it is not even preferred.


  • Wali
    May 13, 2014 - 11:28AM

    Instead of acknowledging the problem (polio) that we clearly have and the world worried, we are looking for excuses, conspiracies and reasons. Even, for a second, if I believe UN was complicit in anyway through Shakeel Afridi case, why is it still not the State of Pakistan’s responsiblity to eradicate polio and provide healthcare…. are we going to walk upto a family suffering from a polio case and tell them that it is UN or Shakeel Afridi’s fault!?


  • ahmer
    May 13, 2014 - 12:18PM

    Pakistan…the land of ostriches with their heads in the sand and conspiracy theories and blame games, the master of excuses
    Alternatively put, the land of no positive and constructive action


  • Facts;
    May 13, 2014 - 12:58PM

    1. The UN is responsible because its forum is being used for creating instability, insecurity and occupying others states i.e. Afghanistan, Libya and African and Arab spring agenda, cold wars and hidden agendas against other state.
    2. UN is completely failed in implementing its decision in the world three main issues; Palestine, Kashmir and Afghanistan.
    3. UN has been fail in providing equality, security, due respect to each country, respecting diversity, religion, ethnicity, sovereignty and identity.
    4. UN is failed stooping the spread of WMD, adverse technology and addressing the root cause of so called terrorism.
    5. UN is failed in building its confidence, relation and image with third world countries, their rights, issues, needs and understanding is highly ignored over the developed and advance countries.
    6. UN is fail in proving Justice and Equality to save the World.


  • Wali2
    May 13, 2014 - 1:07PM

    @Facts… @Ahmer made the point well!!!!!!!!!


  • Sexton Blake
    May 13, 2014 - 1:10PM

    Dear Professor,
    I am not sure about truth in Pakistan, but am absolutely certainly that truth supposedly emanating from the West is really a lie.


  • Sexton Blake
    May 13, 2014 - 1:32PM

    Dear Facts,
    If only more people were like you and could see what was was really happening.


  • unbelievable
    May 13, 2014 - 2:49PM

    Pakistan should spend more time dispensing polio vaccine and less time trying to shift blame to the UN, USA, and the boogeyman. While your at it you should finally take the time to thank the UN and USA for providing polio vaccine free of charge. BTW – how’s that Abbottabad report coming?


  • Ch. Allah Daad
    May 13, 2014 - 5:38PM

    Bottom line is that Polio campaign has failed and virus is spreading in Pakistan, rest are all explanations. World doesn’t care about explanations. We must declare health emergency and do everything to eradicate this disease. Also, problem won’t solve by giving Polio drops to travelers. It would start a chain reaction and could make us untouchables in world community. FO and other government departments should not behave like a student who failed the exam and now giving explanations. His explanations will never get him promotion to next grade.


  • Ali Tanoli
    May 13, 2014 - 6:15PM

    UNO worked for so called world powers and whole world knows that injustice starts from home.


  • Sexton Blake
    May 13, 2014 - 9:32PM

    Dear unbelievable,
    Once again you have provided ET readers with one of your cheap, inaccurate put-downs of Pakistan instead of explaining what is really happening. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is a $5.5 billion program designed to provide polio vaccinations for 250 million children. The funding comes from many Government and private sources including Canada, Germany, Norway, UK, UAE, Bill Gates Foundation etc, etc. It is a tremendous program ably assisted by organizations such as WHO, and many others. Health organization and their workers, in all the countries where polio is still a problem, are working tremendously hard to eradicate this scourge at great financial and personal cost under very difficult conditions. Obviously, the last thing they need are doctors and intelligence agencies misusing the GPEI program, or any other health program, for nefarious activities.


  • Sexton Blake
    May 14, 2014 - 12:55AM

    @Ch. Allah Daad:
    Dear Ch,
    Statistics vary, but one that I saw mentioned 59 cases of polio in Pakistan this year so far. Hardly a failed program. It works out at 0.00003 per percent of Pakistan’s population. However, although even 1 is too many it is just as well to remember that over a million people died in Pakistan last year. The seriously ill figure, which is much higher, would include polio victims of about 100.


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