Three more polio workers shot in Pakistan, eight dead in 48 hrs
Family members of Nasima Bibi, a female worker of an anti-polio drive campaign who was shot by gunmen, mourn her death at a hospital morgue in Karachi on Dec. 18. (Photo: Reuters, Athar Hussain)
Three workers in a polio eradication campaign were shot in Pakistan on Wednesday, and two of them were killed, the latest in an unprecedented string of attacks over the past three days that has partially halted the UN-backed campaign.
The United Nations in Pakistan has pulled all staff involved in the campaign off the streets, spokesman Michael Coleman said.
The government said immunization was continuing in some areas without UN support although many workers refused to go out. Women health workers held protests in the southern city 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?” health worker Ambreen Bibi said at the Islamabad protest.
The government was caught off guard by the violence, saying they had not expected attacks in areas far from Taliban strongholds and they 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.
“In far flung areas where the threats are more pronounced, we have been providing polio teams security.”