Polio workers face spate of attacks in Pakistan; two officers killed

At least three teams of polio workers came under attack in the last three days, killing two police officers who were on duty for the protection of the teams in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Aug 03, 2021
Image
Polio workers face spate of attacks in Pakistan

At least three teams of polio workers came under attack in the last three days, killing two police officers who were on duty for the protection of the teams in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Over 110 polio workers have been in Pakistan since 2012, making the country one of the most dangerous ones for carrying out the vaccination. 

On Monday, gunmen shot and killed a police officer guarding a polio vaccination team in the northwestern area, media reports say. The attack took place in Kolachi town in the Dera Ismail Khan district in KP province. 

The campaign was started on Saturday last week in all 18 districts of the province where vaccination workers often came under attacks from insurgents. Soon after the incident, the gunmen fled the scene and security forces launched an operation to nab him. 

On Sunday also, two incidents were reported where police personnel involved in the drive were attacked. A police officer who was returning from the polio vaccination duty was shot. Officer later died in a hospital in Peshawar, the capital of the province. 

On the same day, a vehicle carrying polio workers was hit by a roadside bomb in the South Waziristan area. However, no casualty was reported in the incident. 

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), commonly known as the Pakistan Taliban, later took responsibility for the attacks.   

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two remaining countries in the world where polio is endemic. In eastern Afghanistan, bordering KP province of Pakistan, insurgents often target polio workers. Pakistan has set a target of vaccinating around  23.6 million children in this latest anti-polio drive.

Aimal Khan, a spokesman for the anti-polio program in northwestern Pakistan, said the vaccination effort would continue despite the challenges with some 17,000 trained workers going home to home to administer the vaccines in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

So far, Pakistan reported just one case this year while last year it reported 66 cases. 

Hardliner clerics also play their part in fuelling vaccine hesitancy among the population, with some claiming it creates impotency, others call the vaccines un-Islamic. Recently, authorities have started cracking down on clerics promoting vaccine hesitancy. 

(SAM)