Pak’s KP faces challenge to counter militant attacks on polio vaccinators

Peshawar [Pakistan], Sept. 16 : With Pakistan still struggling to become a polio free country, its Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province faces the challenge of how to counter militant attacks on vaccinators.

The militants had last week killed union council polio eradication committee head Dr Zakaullah Khan in Peshawar, sending a message that they are around, reports the Dawn.

This message has only terrified vaccinators to stay away from administering Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). Pakistan and Afghanistan, are the last two polio-endemic countries in the world, facing militants, with the first forced to stopp vaccination in Swat in 2007, followed by in North and South Waziristan agencies in 2012.

Due to this at least 160 children have been left crippled for life. The Swat valley recorded the most nationwide polio cases in 2009 after a ban was imposed by the outlawed Pakistan Tehreek-i-Taliban chief, Maulvi Fazalullah.

Reports suggest that Waziristan suffered immensely when 150,000 children remained unimmunised for two years and the situation only improved when the army began their action.

No polio cases has been recorded in Swat for five years now and the number of such cases in Waziristan has dropped to two.

And the authorities in Federally Administered Tribal Areas argue that the children got infected in Afghanistan where they had migrated due to the military campaign against Taliban militants.

The children are said to have stayed in the area under the influence of militants loyal to Fazalullah, a known opponent of oral polio vaccine.

The officials associated with the anti-polio campaign are of the opinion that they cannot afford to abandon the efforts and lose the gains they have obtained in the prolonged fight against polio.

An official said that Dr Zakaullah stood undeterred despite killing and injuring of his several anti-polio colleagues in targeted militant attacks.

Another official highlighted the efforts of the vaccinators and said that despite meagre wages, vaccinators played instrumental part in containing the crippling disease in KP and Fata.

The Taliban had assassinated several of their colleagues in the provinces. Despite the proposal was under consideration to give vaccinators more money, it never got approval. The official said that the militants have so far killed 41 anti-polio workers and injured 40, including women, and policemen deployed to protect door-to-door vaccination campaign but the efforts have not been halted.

As a result of the army's operation, militants are said to have been targeting vaccinators not only in Peshawar but also in Charsadda, Swabi and Mardan to block the global polio eradication campaigns.

Source: ANI