UK & World News

  • 18 December 2012, 12:29

Pakistan: Polio Vaccination Workers Shot Dead

Gunmen on motorbikes have shot dead four women giving polio vaccinations in Pakistan.

The attacks were carried out in three different areas of Karachi, the country's biggest city.

The women - all Pakistanis - were killed on the second day of a three-day nationwide drive against the disease, which is endemic in Pakistan.

The health minister for Sindh province said he had ordered a halt to all polio vaccinations in Karachi following the shootings.

Police said another polio worker was shot dead there on Monday, although the circumstances of his death only became clear later.

Senior police officer Shahid Hayat blamed the killings on "militants who issued a fatwa against polio vaccination in the past".

Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio, a highly-infectious and crippling disease, remains endemic, along with neighbouring Afghanistan and Nigeria.

But efforts to tackle the problem have been hampered over the years by suspicion over vaccination drives.

Warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur and the Pakistani Taliban banned polio vaccinations in the country's tribal northwest, where polio is a particular problem, last June.

They claim the anti-polio campaign is a cover for spying activities by the West.

Officials say the ban is putting the health of 240,000 children in North and South Waziristan at risk.

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