World Bulletin/News Desk
Shaken by successive attacks on anti-polio vaccinators, the World Health Organization, or WHO, has shut down all its operations in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province, officials said on Thursday.
The decision is seen as a response to the latest attack on anti-polio workers in the state capital Quetta on Wednesday, in which four vaccinators - including three women - were gunned down in broad daylight.
“All our operations, including an ongoing anti-polio campaign, will remain suspended in Baluchistan until we are given new orders,” a senior WHO official told The Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.
“A decision to this effect has been taken in view of the current security and law and order situation in the province,” she added.
The Baluchistan government also sent an advisor to workers of UNICEF and other UN-affiliated organizations operating in the province, in order to restrict their movement till further orders.
Anti-polio vaccinators have been facing huge risks to their lives by administrating polio drops to children in various parts of the country, especially in southwestern Baluchistan and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhawa provinces, and their adjoining tribal belt.
According to local media reports, at least 39 vaccinators have lost their lives, while scores of volunteers have faced death threats.
The outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan movement is presumed to be behind these attacks, as the group has previously hurled numerous threats to vaccinators to stay away from the anti-polio campaign.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is a mother coalition of different militant outfits operating in Pakistan.
They are also known as the Pakistani Taliban and have been on the run following a large-scale military onslaught in restless north Afghanistan.
The Pakistani Taliban opposed the anti-polio campaign after a Pakistani doctor was accused of helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden’s trail in the country in 2010.
Dr. Shakil Afridi had reportedly launched a polio campaign in a neighborhood of Pakistan’s Abbottabad city at the behest of the American spy agency in an effort to profile the DNA of the al-Qaeda leader’s children.
Afridi was tried for treason and continues to languish in a Pakistani jail.
Pakistan is one of three countries, including Nigeria and Afghanistan, where the polio virus is endemic.
The South Asian Muslim state was already placed under World Health Organization travel restrictions in June, in a bid to contain the spread of polio.
Some 254 polio cases – 80 percent from the northwestern tribal belt, which is plagued by constant fighting – have been reported in Pakistan this year.
The federal and state governments have been struggling to contain the crippling disease; however, consistent attacks on vaccinators have badly undermined their efforts.
Last Mod: 27 Kasım 2014, 14:30