UN pulls staff as more polio workers killed in Pakistan

Three more health workers were killed on Wednesday in four incidents of firing on polio- eradication teams in Pakistan`s northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Zeenews Bureau

Islamabad: United Nations said that it was recalling its staff involved in anti-polio drive in Pakistan as three more health workers were killed on Wednesday in four incidents of firing in Pakistan`s northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, bringing the death toll to nine.

The BBC reported that the UN has scaled back the anti-polio campaign in Pakistan as more killings were reported.

Following the repeated attacks, the World Health Organization suspended its anti-polio drive in the country and directed its field workers to stop their respected missions across Pakistan until further notification.

Local police officials said that some unknown gunmen opened fire at a vehicle carrying two health workers including a lady supervisor of polio-eradication team in Battagram town of Charsadda, a district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The attackers fled the scene following the attack.

Another worker who got injured in firing by unknown gunmen in provincial capital Peshawar of the province, earlier in the morning succumbed to injuries at the hospital, bringing the death toll to three since this morning.

Since morning four incidents of firing on polio-eradication teams took place in the province including two in Charsadda, one in Nowshera and another in Peshawar.

Earlier on Tuesday afternoon, one woman was killed when a polio team was attacked in Peshawar.

On Monday night, five people including four women health workers were killed and one was injured in five separate incidents of firing by unknown gunmen in the country``s southern port city of Karachi.

The anti-polio campaign was halted in various areas of the country following the attack, stumbling the government`s efforts for the eradication of the disease.

The attacks on polio teams in the country were followed by a nationwide and world over condemnation.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the attack on Tuesday night and directed the concerned officials of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces to probe the incident and submit the reports to him within forty-eight hours.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf also condemned the attacks and praised the efforts of the polio vaccination teams, calling on regional authorities to guarantee their safety.

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the killing of polio-eradication campaign workers in the country on Tuesday.

US State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nauland Tuesday said in a media briefing in Washington that the US condemned polio workers killings in Pakistan.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack yet, but in the past Pakistan Taliban threatened to launch attack at polio- eradication teams.

The militants are against the anti-polio drive in the country because they believe the United States is using the program as a cover for espionage and the workers associated with the campaign are potential spies.

Pakistan is one of the world`s three countries along with Afghanistan and Nigeria where the polio disease still exists. In 2011, an estimated 173 cases of polio were registered across the county, following which the government speeded up the eradication campaign. According to official statistics, only 56 cases have been registered across the country this year, thanks to anti-polio vaccination.

The Pakistani government has declared polio as emergency and planned to target 33 million children for vaccination in 20102. Some 88,000 health workers were also enrolled across the country to deliver vaccination drops.

With ANI Inputs