KARACHI: As Pakistan’s polio count continues to rise unabated, vaccination efforts hit frequent setbacks due to attacks by those who believe the shots cause infertility. In the latest attack, a police official escorting vaccinators in the Orangi Town neighbourhood of Karachi was shot and critically wounded on Monday.
The gun attack took place around 10:30am, shortly after a door-to-door vaccination campaign was launched in Orangi Town. Police contingents were called in from different zones for the security of the fieldworkers who were administering drops to children in different localities.
“Two men arrived on a motorcycle and shot at the police officer before fleeing the scene,” said a colleague of the injured police officer, who was identified as ASI Tabassum Ali, 34. He was shot once in the head. He was driven to the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital where medics referred him to the Aga Khan University Hospital for treatment of his critical wounds.
There have been several such attacks on polio fieldworkers in the past, mostly in Sohrab Goth, Gulshan-e-Maymar, Landhi, Baldia Town, Orangi Town and Qayyumabad neighbhourhoods of the city. In most cases, Taliban militants were involved, but there has also been an upsurge in targeted attacks on police in recent months.
Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication and State Minister for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Ayesha Raza Farooq condemned Monday’s attack as ‘unfortunate and tragic’. “It is a reminder of the challenges our country is facing in its effort to eradicate polio. However, we are determined to purge the country of this crippling disease,” she told The Express Tribune.
Shortly after the attack, the PM Polio Cell wrote a letter to the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) of the interior ministry which is working closely with the NHSRC ministry to ensure foolproof security for polio teams across the country. “We have asked DG NCMC, Saud Aziz, who has been recently appointed as focal person on polio for the interior ministry, to write a letter to the Sindh home department asking for strengthening security like they did during the holy month of Muharram,” she said.
Ayesha said that in a security plan shared with the Sindh home department they have requested for a curfew in the high-risk areas during vaccination campaigns.
In a related development, a scheduled vaccination campaign could not be launched in northern Balochistan on Monday due to the fluid security situation. Over two million children below the age of five are to be vaccinated by around 6,618 teams – both mobile and sedentary – in 26 districts of the province during the three-day drive.
The campaign was successfully completed in Nasirabad division recently, but Loralai, Qila Saifullah, Zhob, Sherani and Musakhail districts of Zhob division were left out due to volatile security there. “The administration has requested that the campaign in these districts be postponed,” provincial Director General Health told The Express Tribune. “The campaign will be launched in these areas later.” (With additional reporting by Sehrish Wasif in Islamabad and Shezad Baloch in Quetta)
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2015.
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