Health workers boycott polio vaccination in Bajaur Agency
KHAR: Health workers in a Pakistani tribal area on Monday announced a boycott of a polio vaccination drive to protest the killing of one of their colleagues last week.
Abdul Ghani Marwat, who headed the government’s vaccination campaign in Bajaur near the Afghan border, was returning after meeting a local religious leader when his vehicle was hit by a bomb, killing him and injuring three others.
The blast came amidst rumours the vaccination drive was a US plot to sterilise Muslim children.
Some 1,500 health officials, including doctors, nurses and paramedical staff, on Monday wore black armbands and observed a “complete strike” in the region to protest against the killing, said a Health Department spokesman.
“The strike will be observed till Wednesday to protest against the lack of security for health workers in the region,” the chairman of the doctors’ action committee, Daud Jan, told reporters.
“The health workers have also decided to boycott the three-day polio vaccination drive beginning from Tuesday and they will take out a protest rally in Khar,” he said.
Local health officials said that some 140,000 children could be affected by the action.
“The workers of health department are terrified, and to make our voice heard by the government, we have decided to observe a three-day strike in Bajaur,” said Jan.
The government said on Friday that the parents of some 24,000 children had refused to give them the polio vaccine because of a campaign by Muslim clergy.
Health officials have been trying to dispel rumours – sometimes spread on radio stations or from the loudspeakers of mosques – that the polio campaign is a Western conspiracy to reduce Muslim populations.
The three-day polio campaign will now be launched in selective 49 districts: 18 in NWFP, 10 in Balochistan, 12 in Sindh and nine in southern Punjab. agencies