Polio team attacked in Balochistan, Levies man killed

Updated 15 Sep 2014

Email

Photo by AFP/File
Photo by AFP/File

QUETTA: The first day of a fresh polio vaccination campaign in Balochistan saw a Levies man killed as armed men attacked a polio team in the Pishin district on Monday, officials said.

A Levies official who requested anonymity told Dawn that armed men opened fire at a polio team in Pishin's Karbala area and killed a Levies man.

"The Levies man was guarding the polio workers when they came under attack by militants," he said, adding that the polio workers survived the attack.

The assailants made a quick escape as they drove away on a motorcycle soon after the attack.

Police and Levies personnel reached the site of the incident and cordoned off the area.There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

The Health Department of Balochistan in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF launched an anti-polio campaign in Quetta, Killa Abdullah and Pishin last week.

A health department official told Dawn that the campaign aims to target over 700,000 children.

Pishin is one of the high risk districts of Balochistan as it has witnessed an alarming increase in polio cases. Polio teams in Quetta, Pishin and other parts of Balochistan have come under attack by militants in the past.

Two polio cases have been reported in Balochistan during 2014, and the province's celebration of a short-lived polio-free status ended when a case was found in Qila Abdullah district end July.Before this, no case had been reported in almost 16 months in Balochistan as result of an effective anti-polio campaign in the province.

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria. Efforts to eradicate it have been seriously hampered by the deadly targeting of vaccination teams in recent years.

Deputy Commissioner of Pishin, Basheer Ahmed Bazai, however, denied that today's killing was an attack on the polio team, and said the Levies man had been targeted for another reason.

The government is facing mounting pressure from international health agencies as it fails to curb the crippling virus that has seen the highest reported cases in Pakistan this year.

A report compiled by the International Monitoring Board (IMB) — the body which suggested international travel restrictions on Pakistan — its report stated that thePakistani government has failed to keep its promise of a 'polio-free Pakistan by 2014'.

The report further stated that Pakistan infected Syria, Iraq, West Bank and Gaza with polio virus .A Ministry of National Health Services official said unfortunately polio was not among the priorities of the government.