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Four polio workers killed in Pakistan

Shootings come day after launch of three-day vaccination drive

Four polio workers killed in Pakistan

A Peshawar health worker administers polio vaccine under police watch (file picture: Asianet-Pakistan/ reporter, Karachi

January 21, 2014

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Three polio workers, two of them women, were shot dead while administering vaccines in Karachi on Tuesday, police and eyewitnesses said. Samaa TV also reported that another polio worker was shot dead in Mansehra, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

In the Karachi incident at least three other people, including a woman and a child, were injured in the shootings in the city's Qayumabad district.

According to eyewitnesses, two masked gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on the polio workers in two locations in the district and sped away.

The killings came a day after the start of a three-day anti-polio campaign launched across Pakistan.

Health authorities suspended the campaign in parts of Karachi following the attack.

“We have halted the polio campaign in District East due to security concerns,” Executive District Health Officer Dr Zafar Ejaz said.

In a statement on Monday, Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif reiterated his government’s commitment to eradicating the crippling disease.

“Despite immense security challenges we face due to our contribution to the war on terror the government has successfully managed to localize most cases to focal areas concentrated mainly in the conflict areas in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency,” he said in a statement.

“Our valiant polio workers continue to perform their job with devotion and dedication despite obstacles. I salute their perseverance and commitment,” he said.

In a press release last week, the World Health Organization declared Pakistan's volatile northwestern city of Peshawar to be the largest reservoir of endemic polio cases in the world.

Pakistan is also the only polio-endemic country in the world where polio cases rose in 2013, from 58 to 91, the statement said.

In North Waziristan, the Taliban have put a ban on polio vaccination, accusing health workers of spying. Some hardline Muslims said that the campaign is a plot to sterilize Muslim children.

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