Armed men on motorcycles opened fire on a polio team in Karachi fatally injuring three members including two women, in Qayyumabad area in Karachi East on Tuesday.
The polio vaccination drive had entered its second day today and now the members are unwilling to go ahead with the drive, according to unofficial sources. The polio team comprising four people was targeted while they were administering the oral polio vaccine in a crowded area of the city.
Sindh province reported six cases of the total 91 in 2013 and four of them were from Karachi. The polio drive was aimed at immunising over seven million children and was to continue for a couple of days.
One news report said the teams were working without security, and the polio workers have decided to back off from the programme.
Official sources said that from 2012 onwards 33 polio workers were killed including 11 security personnel and nine injured in attacks. The Taliban has issued a warning against polio vaccination and these attacks are believed to take place in areas where they have a base.
In a separate incident in Mansehra in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in Shergarh, on Tuesday a polio worker was shot dead but the incident was reported as due to personal enmity.
The attacks on polio teams began on July 17, 2012 in Gadap Town, Karachi during a polio drive when a doctor attached to the World Health Organisation was injured when gunmen opened fire on his vehicle. His driver too was hurt in the attack. The next day, on the second day of the immunization programme, a polio worker Ishaq was shot dead in the same area. In Quetta in October 2012, one worker was killed during a campaign in the Alizai town.
In four incidents in Karachi in December 2012, three in one day, five persons including four women, two of them in charge of the area programme were killed, and two injured in attacks. In January this year, in Korangi Town in Karachi three persons including two women were shot dead and one injured in firing.
Security police accompanying the teams were killed in Swabi, Mardan and Bajaur and Peshawar last year while a bomb blast killed two policemen in Suleman Khel area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Militants also attacked the Mattani civil hospital last year and killed one person during polio vaccination. There have been seven attacks in Karachi of the 25 reported incidents and 13 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, mostly in Peshawar and Swabi. Balochistan reported two attacks and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas accounted for three incidents.
In addition in Swabi, on January 2, seven NGO workers who were associated with the polio campaign in the past were killed. The latest attack comes a day after Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan remained strongly committed to polio eradication.
“Despite the immense security challenges we face due to our contribution to the war on terror the government has successfully managed to localize most cases to focal areas concentrated mainly in the conflict areas in North Waziristan and Khyber agency. 95 per cent of the country is now polio-free. We have already started implementing the augmented National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) through a series of concerted efforts aimed at complete eradication of polio in 2014,” he said.
On Tuesday President Mamnoon Hussain chaired a meeting on Polio Eradication and called on all stakeholders to take part in the Nationwide Polio Campaign for 2014 that began on Monday.
Ms. Ayesha Raza Farooq, the Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication told the meeting that more than 34 million children were going to be vaccinated across the country during the campaign and over 200,000 workers and supervisors were involved in the immunization drive. She said that Polio Control Rooms have been established at district, provincial and federal levels to closely monitor daily progress of the campaign.