WHO Suspends Polio Vaccination Campaign In Pakistan After 2 Volunteers Shot

The WHO “on Tuesday withdrew polio-vaccination teams from the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar after two volunteers were shot, in another setback to eradicating the crippling disease that remains resilient in the region,” the Wall Street Journal reports (Symington/Hodge, 5/28). “The victims of the shooting in the violence-plagued northwestern city of Peshawar were aged 18 and 20,” Reuters writes, adding, “Police said both had died, but medical sources said one had died and one was seriously wounded” (Ahmed, 5/28). “No group immediately claimed responsibility for slaying the vaccination workers, who have become frequent targets of attacks,” according to the Associated Press (5/28).

“Most such violence has been attributed to the Pakistani Taliban, who have criticized vaccination efforts as a cover for Western espionage,” the New York Times notes, adding, “Also, religious extremists claim that the real aim of vaccination campaigns is to sterilize Pakistan’s Muslim population” (Khan/Masood, 5/28). “Last year many polio workers were killed when Taliban militants attacked polio-eradication teams in several districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the country’s southern port city of Karachi,” Xinhua notes (Yang, 5/28). The WHO “condemned the attack,” according to another AP article (Khan/Toosi, 5/28). “Pakistan is one of three countries in the world where polio has yet to be eradicated,” CNN notes (Khan, 5/29).