Three workers in a polio eradication campaign were shot in Pakistan yesterday, and two of them were killed, the latest in an unprecedented string of attacks over the past few days that has partially halted the United Nations-backed campaign.
The UN in Pakistan has pulled all staff involved in the campaign off the streets, a spokesman said. The government said immunisation was continuing in some areas without UN support, although many workers refused to go out.
Women health workers held protests in of Karachi and in the capital, Islamabad. “We go out and risk our lives to save other people’s children from being permanently handicapped, for what? So that our own children become orphans?” said health worker Ambreen Bibi at the Islamabad protest.
The government was caught off guard by the violence, saying it had not expected attacks in areas far from Taleban strongholds and it would have to change tactics in the health campaign. “We didn’t expect such attacks in Karachi,” said Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, minister for human rights, who oversees the polio campaign. He was referring to the southern commercial hub where there have been attacks this week.
Yesterday saw four separate attacks, all in the north. In the district of Charsadda, men on motorbikes shot dead a woman and her driver, police and health officials said.
Hours earlier, gunmen wounded a male health worker in the nearby provincial capital of Peshawar. He is in a critical condition.
Four other women health workers were shot at but not hit in nearby Nowshera, while two female health workers were shot at in Dwasaro village in Charsadda, police said.
On Monday and Tuesday, six health workers were killed in attacks in Karachi and Peshawar.