WHO Polio Workers Under Fire

Two employees of the World Health Organization were shot last week while working on a vaccination campaign in Pakistan.

By | July 25, 2012

Downtown KarachiWikimedia Commons, Asjad Jamshed

Last week saw two acts of violence against people working on the World Health Organization's (WHO) polio eradication campaign in Karachi, Pakistan. On Tuesday (July 17) gunmen shot a Ghanaian doctor and his Pakistani driver, and on Friday (July 20) Muhammad Ishaq was shot outside the clinic where he worked in the Gadap slum of Karachi. Ishaq died on his way to the hospital, the doctor and driver are recovering from their wounds.

The WHO cancelled the vaccination effort in Gapad after the first shooting and has beefed up security in the area.

There is anti-polio-vaccine sentiment in the region—some feel that the vaccine is unsafe and US-led efforts aim to sterilize Muslim children—and suspicion of Western-backed initiatives may be especially high in Gadap, which is home to many migrants from the tribal regions near the border with Afghanistan.

Still, officials have not yet linked the two shootings, according to Bruce Aylward, an assistant director general of the WHO and leader of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. "Our operating assumption is that [the shootings] may be related, and that affects how we approach security," he told ScienceInsider.

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