PESHAWAR, May 28: A woman health worker was killed and another seriously injured in an attack on a polio team here on Tuesday. The two women were part of a three-day campaign against the crippling disease in the city.
The health department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced suspension of the campaign after the attack.
According to Peshawar Deputy Commissioner Jawed Marwat, the two women were administrating anti-polio drops among children in Kaga Wala village when they were attacked. According to a police officer, the campaign’s local supervisor Aurangzeb Khan told police that the vaccinators did not need any security because they were from the same area and wanted to keep a low profile.
The deputy commissioner confirmed that the vaccinators had not sought a police escort. “Probably they thought it was good not to go with police escort and become a target,” he said.
The KP government had ordered police protection for polio teams after persistent attacks on health workers in which many lives were lost.
The police officer said two gunmen on a motorcycle had opened fire on the polio team and escaped. The deceased was identified as Ms Sharafat and the injured as Ms Sumbal who was taken to the Lady Reading Hospital.
He said a search operation had been launched in the area but no arrests were made. During the operation sub-inspector Saleem Khan died apparently because of cardiac arrest.
A total of 1,803 polio teams were involved in the three-day campaign which began on Tuesday, an official in the health department said.
Sixteen cases of polio have been detected across the country this year, four of them in KP.
The provincial health department suspended the campaign for three days to express solidarity with the families of the two vaccinators.
The WHO, a main supporter of the government in the polio campaign, also suspended its activities.
Dr Elias Durry, the chief of WHO polio team in Pakistan, said the attacks on polio teams in Peshawar were unacceptable and highly condemnable. “We request Ulema and religious leaders to come forward and play an active role in making Pakistan a safe country for health workers,” he told Dawn.
Dr Durry said his organisation was working closely with the KP government to monitor the situation.