21st January, 2014 – Three members of a Polio team were killed in the crowded area of Qayyumabad in Karachi, when armed men on motorcycles opened fire on them. The victims including two women were targeted while they were administering the oral polio vaccination. In reaction to the gruesome attack, The polio vaccination drive has come to a halt, as the members are unwilling to go ahead with the vaccination programme, until the authorities ensure concrete measures for their security.
The Sindh province has so far reported six cases of Polio out of the total 91 cases found in 2013 and four of them were from Karachi. The current polio drive was aimed at immunizing 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 militants have issued a warning against polio vaccination and these attacks are believed to take place in areas where they have a base.
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 Organization was injured, after gunmen opened fire on his vehicle. His driver too was hurt in the attack. The next day, another polio worker Ishaq was shot dead in the same area. In Quetta in October 2012, one worker was killed during a campaign.
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 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.
The prime-minister’s spokes person has also stated 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. Polio Control Rooms have been established at district, provincial and federal levels to closely monitor daily progress of the campaign.