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Pakistan Suspends Polio-Vaccination Program After Deadly Attack

  • RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal

Pakistani paramedics move the body of a female polio-vaccination worker to a hospital following a deadly attack by gunmen in Peshawar on May 28.

Pakistani paramedics move the body of a female polio-vaccination worker to a hospital following a deadly attack by gunmen in Peshawar on May 28.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Pakistani authorities have suspended a UN-supported polio vaccination program in the northwest of the country after gunmen attacked two female polio workers, killing one and injuring another.

Officials said the vaccination campaign on the outskirts of the city of Peshawar, where the attack occurred on May 28, has been put on hold.

The attack took place on the first day of a three-day vaccination campaign in the area.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Polio workers have increasingly come under deadly attack in Pakistan, where militants have suggested the vaccine harms children and accused health workers of spying for the United States.

"Motorcyclists opened fire on the polio [eradication] team, which resulted in the killing of one female polio worker and injuring another," Shahidullah, a police official at Badh Bher police station, told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal on May 28. "The injured [polio worker] has been taken to a hospital."

EXPLAINER: Why Polio Remains Endemic In Afghanistan, Pakistan, And Nigeria

In December, gunmen killed at least nine polio workers in separate attacks. Other attacks have killed or injured police officers assigned to protect polio-eradication campaigners.

Attacks have also targeted antipolio efforts in neighboring Afghanistan, which along with Pakistan and Nigeria represent the only three countries in the world that the World Health Organization (WHO) still regards as "polio-endemic." That figure is down from more than 125 countries in 1988.

Deadly attacks in Nigeria have been blamed on militants in the radical Islamic sect Boko Haram.

Polio affects mainly children under the age of 5.

The WHO warns that as long as any child is infected, the risk to other children remains significant. It estimates that a failure to eradicate polio from those remaining areas could balloon into 200,000 new cases a year within a decade.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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