ISLAMABAD: Unidentified miscreants gunned down two police officials along with a polio worker in Datta Khel area of North Waziristan District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Tuesday.
The district’s polio emergency response unit confirmed the incident and said that a child was also injured in the attack.
The police and health officials informed the policemen were guarding the health officials carrying out anti-polio vaccination in the area.
North Waziristan Deputy Commissioner Shahid Ali Khan confirmed the incident and informed that three persons – two policemen and a health official – were killed in the attacked.
The DC said the team was busy with vaccination when unidentified miscreants attacked them with indiscriminate firing, adding that a child also sustained a gunshot in the leg and was rushed to Miran Shah District Headquarters Hospital.
The attackers, however, managed to flee the scene.
Following information about the incident, personnel of the police and other law enforcement agencies rushed to the scene and cordoned off the area for a search operation.
An official, who wished not to be named, informed that a search operation is underway in the area and further information will be shared in due course of time.
It is to be noted that eleven cases of wild poliovirus (WPV) have been reported so far in the current year in the country as compared to only one in 2021. All the 11 cases were reported from North Waziristan.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the miscreants attack on anti-polio workers and paid tribute to the police and health workers for their resolve to purge the country of the crippling disease.
In a tweet, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said he was “deeply anguished” by the news. The prime minister said he had ordered Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident and submit a report at the next cabinet meeting.”
The second Sub-National Immunisation Days (SNIDs) campaign this year began on Monday, aiming at vaccinating 12.6 million children under age of five in 25 very high-risk districts for poliovirus across the country. As many as over 100,000 trained health workers have been engaged in the campaign to inoculate children at their doorsteps.
The emergency committee under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) on the international spread of poliovirus has recently expressed concern over the outbreak of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) in the North Waziristan district.
The committee pointed out that the ongoing circulation of WPV in southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has increased risks for the rest of Pakistan.
“The key challenges that hampered progress in southern KP include the complex security situation, specifically in North and South Waziristan, which resulted in inadequate access, missed children and reduced quality of campaigns,” the committee said. Besides, it noted that community resistance with refusals to vaccination, lack of female frontline workers, and weak health infrastructure and service delivery all posed challenges.
“All WPV cases reported in 2022 are zero dose for routine immunisation, zero dose or under-immunised in supplementary immunisation activities (SIAs), and are from refusal families. Another challenge in South KP is the sub-optimal Routine Immunisation (RI) and progress on strengthening RI in South KP is slow,” it added.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel stressed that collective efforts are required to eradicate polio from the country. He appealed to the parents to make sure their children are vaccinated against polio.
Patel also pinned hope on civil society, media and scholars to play an effective role in eradicating the crippling virus.
Polio workers have been targeted within the country as resistance to vaccination drives persists. According to National Emergency Operations Centre Coordinator Dr Shahzad Baig, community resistance, driven by misconceptions and cultural resistance, are hurdle in polio eradication in Pakistan.
Dr Shahzad stated that the polio outbreak in North Waziristan was limited to one tehsil only. “A number of measures are being taken,” he continued.
The NEOC coordinator urged parents to routinely immunize children on time.