Protecting polio workers

QUETTA: A female polio worker was shot dead along with her daughter on January 18th in Quetta while she was on duty. The incident is hardly the first time that polio workers, who are often vulnerable to such atrocities, have been gunned down. Previously in Karachi too, a couple of incidents involving the killing of polio workers caused immense fear.

Attacks on polio teams became more frequent after the US conducted raid on Osama bin Laden that led to his death. Dr Shakeel Afridi was alleged to be helping US agencies through a fake polio vaccination programme which was in fact supposed to obtain the DNA of Bin Laden and his family.

Although the government has taken measures to ensure the safety of polio workers as polio teams are accompanied by police officials and police mobiles, these measures have helped little in controlling these killings. Partially, due to the fact that in the north-western and tribal areas, the populace still sees anti-polio campaigns as a Western agenda and polio workers as their agents carrying out an anti-Muslim agenda.

To stop these senseless killings and to eradicate polio it is important to earn back the trust of the local communities and the populace of those areas from where most polio cases are reported in the country. This move will not only help in eradicating polio but will also provide polio teams a safe environment to work in.

Amna Abbasi

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2018.

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