South Asia

Another polio worker gunned down in Pakistan

In another attack on anti-polio vaccination teams on the outskirts of Peshawar, one person was shot dead and two were injured on Saturday when armed men opened fire in Matani Hospital, located close to the tribal areas.

News reports said the two unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle fled after the shooting in which a polio worker was killed while two others sustained serious injuries. The attack took place when children were being administered the vaccine, according to reports.

Spokesperson for the Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Shiraz Paracha told The Hindu on the phone that Matani has been targeted before and was a trouble spot.

He said the government had launched an awareness drive on polio since there was a lot of suspicion about the campaign, specially after Dr. Shakeel Afridi was arrested on charges of helping the CIA locate Osama Bin Laden using the pretext of a polio vaccination programme.

The government has given top priority to the anti-polio programme and was recruiting more people to be part of it.

More than a law and order issue, there were deep-rooted socio cultural factors against the vaccination which was affecting the programme, he said.

Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf chairperson Imran Khan had recently launched an anti-polio drive in KPK in a bid to thwart the misconceptions about the vaccine.

Polio workers have been targeted in Matani earlier as well and this time it was the turn of the main official behind the anti polio drive according to one news report.

This month there have been three attacks which killed two polio workers and two security guards escorting the teams in Jamrud in Khyber Agency and Swabi. About 2.34 million children have been missed in polio immunization in Pakistan,

according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the number of polio cases in 2013 has risen to 72, higher than 58 in 2012. Pakistan remains one of the three polio endemic countries in the world along with Nigeria and Afghanistan and it reported the highest number of cases this year.

Cases from the Federally Administered Tribal areas (FATA) had risen by 150 per cent over last year. While 50 cases were reported from FATA this year, ten were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and some from Sindh and Punjab.

The WHO has said the virus was spreading from FATA and KPK and since April almost all the cases were recorded from the areas which had no access to polio teams. Over 172,000 workers are engaged in the polio campaign but administering the vaccine and protecting the teams has come at a cost.

Of the 2,340,567 children who were not vaccinated in the polio drive in November, 373,859 were recorded as “still missed” by polio teams.

Balochistan reported the highest number with 622,354 while KPK it was 501,870 and the FATA-- 477,329 which includes 260,000 from North and South Waziristan which remains a no go area for polio teams since last year after a fatwa by a Taliban leader.

In addition, about 47,099 refusals were recorded by the polio teams from parents. India recently issued an advisory to all travellers from polio endemic countries including Pakistan to vaccinate themselves before their travel.

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Printable version | May 27, 2022 8:56:09 pm |