WHO, UNICEF vow to continue anti-polio drive in Pakistan despite killing of workers
The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have vowed to continue their polio vaccination campaign in Pakistan despite the killing of six vaccinators by gunmen, but urged the government to do its "utmost to protect health workers".
"We remain committed to supporting the government of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan in their efforts to rid the country of polio and other diseases," The News quoted the WHO and UNICEF, as saying in a joint statement issued in the wake of the killing of the six vaccinators in Karachi and Peshawar.
"Such attacks deprive Pakistan's most vulnerable populations, especially children of basic life-saving health interventions. We call on the leaders of the affected communities and everyone concerned to do their utmost to protect health workers and create a secure environment so that we can meet the health needs of the children of Pakistan," the statement said.
"Those killed were among thousands who work selflessly across Pakistan to eradicate polio," the statement further said.
Gunmen shot and killed four women vaccinators in three separate attacks in the southern port city of Karachi. A fifth volunteer, a 14-year-old girl, was shot and killed in Peshawar. Another male volunteer was gunned down in Karachi last night, taking the total number of polio field workers killed to six.
No group claimed responsibility for the attacks but the banned Pakistani Taliban have threatened polio vaccinators in the past.
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf condemned the attacks and reiterated the government's resolve to rid Pakistan of the crippling disease. He ordered the Interior Ministry to coordinate with polio eradication authorities to provide fool-proof security to vaccination teams.
Federal and provincial authorities had temporarily suspended the vaccination campaign due to concerns over the safety of health workers after the attacks.
WHO and UNICEF stated that polio remains endemic only in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.