Drive to wipe out polio in Pakistan results in violence

A Ghanaian doctor involved in a three-day polio immunization campaign and his driver were shot at in Karachi, Pakistan, a day after the Taliban banned the vaccination drive. The doctor — a volunteer World Health Organization supervisor — underwent emergency surgery in Karachi. Both men are reportedly in stable condition.

Constant Dedo was in an unmarked U.N. vehicle in a low-income neighborhood near Gadap Town when gunmen on a motorbike opened fire. Local police blamed the attack on two Afghan men, and said the doctor could have been targeted because of his participation in the polio campaign, Agence France-Presse reports. The gunmen’s motives could not be confirmed, and the Taliban did not claim responsibility for the attack.

The start of the campaign saw increased violence against polio workers, some of whom were beaten in Islamabad and fired at in Jacobabad. The vaccination drive has gone forward in some areas despite a Taliban ban issued in protest of U.S. drone strikes.

The situation was alarming because neither the government nor aid organizations had a strategy for dealing with the problem, a health expert told AFP.

The WHO thanked Pakistan for opening an investigation into the attack and for its continued commitment to polio eradication, and said it would not suspend operations in the country. The ongoing immunization campaign aims to reach 34 million children under 5 in a nation that saw nearly 200 new polio cases last year — the worst figures in more than a decade.

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About the author

  • Jennnews21

    Jennifer Brookland

    Jennifer Brookland is a former Devex global development reporter based in Washington, D.C. She has worked as a humanitarian reporter for the United Nations and as an investigative journalist for News21. Jennifer holds a bachelor's in foreign service from Georgetown University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University and in international law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School. She also served for four years as an Air Force officer.

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