Unidentified gunmen killed six anti-polio campaigners in two separate incidents — five in Karachi and one in Peshawar — in Pakistan on Tuesday.
The WHO, which runs the polio eradication programme, called off the campaign soon after. “The campaign is stopped in the province with immediate effect,” said provincial health minister Dr Sagheer Ahmed.
Experts indicate that the increase in attacks on anti-polio campaigners followed resistance from the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that regards the campaign as a conspiracy against Pakistan and actually an attempt to render the men impotent.
The killings have shocked medical practitioners and also threw Pakistan’s anti-polio campaign in a disarray. “The campaign is halted for the second time this year and will lead to higher risk for 4.4 million children under five years of age in Sindh,” said Ahmed.
Pakistan is one of the last three countries in the world still facing the risk from the virus.
Earlier, WHO suspended polio vaccinations over a spate of shooting incidents on July 17 when a UN doctor from Ghana and his driver were shot.