Female polio worker killed in Chaman as attacks intensify against drive


–Unidentified gunmen open fire on immunisation team, leave another female vaccinator injured

–Nowshera man refuses drops for his children, throws anti-polio team out of his house


CHAMAN/PESHAWAR: Polio eradication teams were attacked in Sindh and Balochistan on Thursday while a female polio worker was shot and killed in Chaman.

According to police, two men on a motorcycle attacked a polio team in Chaman’s Sultanzai area, which resulted in Nasreen, a 35-year-old polio worker being killed. Another polio worker, 24-year-old Rashida was seriously wounded in the attack. She was shifted to a hospital in Quetta for treatment.

Polio campaign was temporary suspended in Sultanzai while police have launched a search operation in the area.

More than 2.5 million children in Balochistan were to be administered the anti-polio vaccine during the campaign. As many as 10,356 teams were deployed to vaccinate children. Apart from the 8,829 mobile teams, 951 fixed points and 576 transit points had also been set up all over Balochistan to ensure that all children are administered anti-polio drops.

In Nowshera, a man refused the drops for his children and threw the polio eradication team out of the house.

Several polio workers in Balochistan and other parts of the country have been killed by militants, while apprehensive parents routinely refuse to have their children inoculated during door-to-door campaigns.

On April 8, a union council polio officer associated with the World Health Organisation was shot dead in Ghazi Baig area of Haleemzai tehsil in Mohmand tribal district.

The latest attack targeting an immunisation team comes days after anti-polio panic spread across Peshawar and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa amid reports that some 75 students at a school in Peshawar’s Badhber area had been admitted to a hospital with complaints of nausea and headaches after being vaccinated.

Following the panic, a police officer deployed at a Bannu basic health unit for the security of immunisation workers during a province-wide drive was gunned down by unknown assailants while on his way to work on April 23.

Last year, 12 cases of wild poliovirus were reported in the country — five from Bajaur, three from Dukki, and one each from Charsadda, Lakki Marwat, Khyber and Gadap. The data indicates a 97 per cent decrease in the number of annual polio cases from the high tally of 306 reported in 2014.

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a crippling childhood disease caused by the polio virus and preventable through immunisation. Affecting mostly children under the age of five, polio — which has no cure and can only be prevented by giving a child multiple vaccine doses — can lead to irreversible paralysis.

The country continues to battle polio for the past several years and is close to completely eradicating the disease. The number of cases declined from 306 in 2014 to 54 in 2015, 20 in 2016 and eight in 2017. In 2018, 12 cases were reported.

A country must have no cases for three consecutive years in order to be considered to have eradicated polio by the World Health Organisation.