At least two female polio vaccinators were shot dead in southwest Pakistan on Thursday, an official said, according to a report by AA.COM.
This was the first militant attack on a polio team in 2018 in the country, where armed assailants belonging to militants groups have frequently targeted vaccination teams and their security details.
“Two terrorists riding a motorbike opened fire on the polio vaccinators in Sialkot area of Quetta city and killed two women health workers on the spot,” Muhammad Sharif, a local police officer, told Anadolu Agency on phone. Thursday was the last day of three-day anti-polio drive in Balochistan province to vaccinate more than 2.4 million children.
In several parts of Pakistan, the militant groups see the anti-polio campaigns as part of an elaborate anti-Muslim and Western conspiracy, and often issue death threats to vaccinators, many of whom are women, for administering the vital vaccines to children.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi condemned the attack, ordering the concerned authorities to apprehend the culprits involved in the incident. He also ordered the Balochistan government to provide comprehensive security cover to the polio teams.
According to the health officials, at least 84 people associated with the drive have been killed across Pakistan since December 2012.
Pakistan is among three countries in the world, including Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio virus still exists and the country remains under a polio-linked travel restriction imposed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In 2014, the WHO made it mandatory for all people traveling from Pakistan to carry a polio vaccination certificate. During the last four years, Pakistan successfully brought the cases down from 306 in 2014 to 54 in 2015, 20 in 2016 and only 8 cases in 2017, while no case has yet been reported in the current year.