By Our Staff Reporter
Peshawar: Aftershocks of Dr. Shakil Afridi’s fake polio campaigns continues as unidentified gunmen riding a motorcycle shot and killed a police officer deputed at security of polio vaccination workers in Peshawar, police said.
The killing came during one of two attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Sunday on police providing security for polio vaccination teams. Deceased police officer was on the way to home after performing duty when he came under attack, police said in a statement.
“Meanwhile, a roadside bomb exploded as a police van passed by while escorting a polio vaccination team in the Ladha area of the South Waziristan tribal district. The blast wounded an officer in the van,” Dawn quoted a police officer Shaukat Ali as saying.
Attacks on polio workers started soon after Dr. Shakil Afridi kicked off a fake polio campaign a decade ago in Abbotabad city to get samples of Osama Bin Laden. Since then, militants often target polio teams and police assigned to protect them.
Polio vaccinators across Pakistan are still facing increasing resistance and threats as they seek to prevent a growing caseload of sick children.
This week, as part of a campaign targeting 27.7 million children across Pakistan, authorities arrested 470 parents in the Peshawar region for refusing to allow their children to be vaccinated.
The number of confirmed cases has grown from 58 in 2012 to 306 in 2014, coinciding with increasing attacks on polio workers – 79 vaccinators or security staff working to protect them have been killed since 2012.
Women are frequently targeted, with hard line clerics criticising their presence in the field, arguing they should be at home.
“My parents want me to quit. They say it’s too dangerous,” Saadia Bibi, a vaccinator on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of the north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told IRIN. “[But] I know what damage polio can cause, and also that only women vaccinators will be permitted to enter homes and reach the women and children in our highly conservative culture.”
Entire tracts of the country have been off limits to polio workers as militant groups have threatened anti-polio workers. These include the tribal territory of Waziristan, located along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
“The problem is that these militant groups are using polio in their fight against the government,” said Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, national emergency coordinator for polio eradication, told IRIN. He said the militants deliberately spread rumours to make vaccination more difficult.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two remaining countries in the world where polio is endemic, after Nigeria was last year declared free of the virus.