UK & World News

  • 20 December 2012, 19:57

Pakistan: Polio Attacks Leave Nine Dead

Gunmen have killed nine health workers over three days in Pakistan in attacks against a UN-backed anti-polio vaccination campaign, officials have said.

The attacks have led the UN World Health Organisation to suspend its campaign, dealing a blow to efforts to eradicate the crippling disease in one of the few countries where it remains endemic.

The last victim, Hilal Khan, 20, was shot in the head in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Wednesday while helping distribute polio drops, and has died of his wounds, health officials said.

Six of the victims were women.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called the killings "cruel, senseless and inexcusable", saying the victims were "working selflessly to achieve the historic goal of polio eradication".

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks but some Islamic militants accuse health workers of acting as US spies and maintain the vaccine makes children sterile or impotent.

Taliban commanders in the northwest have banned the vaccinations until the United States ends drone strikes in Pakistan.

Opposition to the campaign has grown after it emerged last year a Pakistani doctor ran a fake vaccination programme to help the CIA track down and kill Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in the town of Abbottabad in the country's northwest.

The campaign to vaccinate children across the country has been jointly conducted with the government.

Polio, a highly-infectious disease, is endemic in Pakistan, neighbouring Afghanistan and Nigeria.

Some local health officials in the eastern city of Lahore continued to give jabs under police protection.

Advertisement