Three women polio workers shot dead in Afghanistan

Published March 30, 2021
Relatives transport the body of a female polio worker who was shot dead by gunmen, in Jalalabad on March 30. — AFP
Relatives transport the body of a female polio worker who was shot dead by gunmen, in Jalalabad on March 30. — AFP

Gunmen killed three Afghan women involved in a nationwide polio immunisation programme on Tuesday, officials said, a day after authorities launched a new drive against the crippling disease.

The three women were killed in two separate attacks in the restive eastern city of Jalalabad, officials said.

“They were all on duty going from house to house to vaccinate children,” supervisor Wahidullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name, told AFP.

An official at the Nangarhar governor's office confirmed the incidents.

A relative of one of the victims told AFP his niece had joined the immunisation programme to earn some money for her family.

“Gunmen shot her dead this morning when she was on duty giving vaccines to children,” said Haji Maqbool.

Farmer Saifullah, who witnessed the killing of the other two workers, said three gunmen had followed them before shooting them.

“The girls had stopped in front of a house and were knocking the door. They were carrying a medical box and some papers,” he said.

“The gunmen then came closer and shot the girls before fleeing.”

A spokesman for the ministry of health said the vaccination drive had been temporarily suspended in Nangarhar.

The top US envoy to Kabul, Ross Wilson, condemned the killings.

“Such attacks are a direct affront to Afghans' dream of building a better life for their children,” he said on Twitter.

“Attacking vaccinators is as heartless as it is inexplicable.”

Polio has been eradicated across the world apart from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where distrust of vaccines is rife.

Officials say the Taliban won't allow door-to-door campaigns in areas they control.

The Taliban and hardline religious leaders often tell communities that vaccines are a Western conspiracy aimed at sterilising Muslim children, and they also suspect immunisation drives are used for spying on militant activities.

The attack on the three polio workers comes amid a surge in violence across Afghanistan and despite peace talks launched between the Taliban and government last year.

A wave of assassinations against high profile Afghans including journalists, activists and civil servants has particularly triggered fear across the nation.

Officials have blamed the Taliban for much of the violence across Afghanistan. The insurgent group denies it is targeting civilians.

The killing of polio workers comes after similar attacks on March 2 claimed by the militant Islamic State (IS) group left three female media workers dead in Jalalabad.

IS has a presence in the eastern province.

Opinion

Editorial

24 Jan, 2022

Anti-extremism policy

HAD there been more far-sighted policymaking on the part of the state and an understanding of how religious ...
Government’s silence
Updated 24 Jan, 2022

Government’s silence

A MAJOR trial is underway in London during which Pakistan has repeatedly been mentioned as the place where payment...
24 Jan, 2022

Cutting mangroves

FOR Karachi, the mangrove cover along its coastline is a thin line of defence against potential oceanic and climatic...
Yemen atrocity
Updated 23 Jan, 2022

Yemen atrocity

The sooner this war is ended, the better, to halt the suffering of Yemen's people and ensure security of all regional states.
23 Jan, 2022

Regressive taxation

THE FBR appears to have kicked up a new and unnecessary controversy by serving notices on currency dealers to ...
23 Jan, 2022

Medico-legal flaws

ON Friday, a 13-page verdict authored by Justice Ali Zia Bajwa of the Lahore High Court revealed a shocking fact...