KARACHI: Government authorities and health workers suspended the anti-polio drive across Sindh, following the killings of three workers in the city's Qayumabad area on Tuesday morning.
Armed attackers on motorcycles attacked the anti-polio workers busy in administering polio drops to infants at the said place. As a result, three workers including two women were killed while two others sustained injuries.
Following the incident, two polio workers went missing and the police fear the miscreants might have abducted them.
As a part of the nationwide polio vaccine campaign, which began on Tuesday, authorities of the Sindh Health Department planned to immunise some 7.6 million children in the province.
Sindh Lady Health Workers Association's (SLHWA) Chairman, Khairun Nisa alleged the Sindh government for not providing proper security to the polio workers, saying that her association had "decided not to run the campaign in the province."
"Polio workers are being killed and despite security threats the Sindh government has not provided ample security," said Nisa while talking to Daily Times.
Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon, she said, had clearly told her that whatever security was being provided to polio workers was enough. "Each worker is paid a small amount of Rs 250 ($2.4) for a day to run such an important campaign, still the authorities are not providing security for the workers. In such conditions, we cannot continue our work," she said. Polio workers will not risk their lives on such meagre amount, added Nisa.
Pakistan is one of the few countries in the world where despite several hundred rounds of the vaccine campaigns, polio couldn't be eradicated. The Pakistan government started nationwide campaign on Tuesday, in which over 33 million Pakistani children of under-five were supposed to be administered with anti-polio vaccine, a drive that was scheduled to continue until January 23.
Though, before the polio vaccine campaign, the district health department Karachi declared some areas including Gadap, Baldia and Gulshan-e-Iqbal neighbourhoods as "sensitive," police authorities did not provide enough security.
When contacted, SSP East Pir Bakhsh refused to talk. However, Additional Secretary Sindh Health Department Dr Masood Solangi confirmed the suspension of the polio campaign and said his department had requested for better security for polio teams to the higher authorities.
After the suspension of the campaign, around 2.26m children in the city would be deprived to get their routine vaccination against poliovirus.
Nine positive cases of polio were reported in Sindh in 2013, out of which seven cases were in Karachi and four in Gadap town alone. Just a couple of days ago, the World Health Organisation declared Peshawar as the "world's largest polio reservoir" on the basis of the samples collected from its sewers, which were detected with poliovirus.
The Tuesday attack on polio workers is not first of its kind the provincial capital. In 2013, after attacks on a WHO doctor and several polio vaccinators, authorities suspended polio campaign many a times.
Polio workers are being killed and despite security threats the Sindh government has not provided ample security’
Each worker is paid a small amount of Rs 250 ($2.4) for a day to run such an important campaign, still the authorities are not providing security for the workers. In such conditions, we cannot continue our work’
Sindh Information Minister