Health worker gives polio vaccine to child in Peshawar, Pakistan, February 18, 2020. - Muhammad Sajjad / AP / SIPA
A police officer was killed and two others were injured on Tuesday in the explosion of an artisanal mine near Dera Ismail Khan (Pakistan). The explosive device targeted a team of polio vaccinators less than a month after the murder of a vaccinator in that region. The police van in which the officers were located jumped onto the craft on the outskirts of the city.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Pakistani Taliban and several other extremist groups have already targeted vaccinators in the past. In late January, two men on motorbikes opened fire on two vaccinators, killing one and seriously injuring the other in the northwest of the country.
The polio vaccine is the victim of persistent suspicion in Pakistan. The organization of a false vaccination campaign by the CIA in order to find Osama bin Laden, killed in 2011, provoked resistance. Some Taliban and ultra-conservative clerics also claim that the vaccines contain ingredients prohibited by Islam or that they cause infertility.
New campaign to vaccinate 39 million children
"I call on all the leaders, the religious leaders, the community leaders, to fully support Pakistan [to] completely eradicate polio," reacted UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who visited the country this Sunday. Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where the disease has not been eradicated.
🗨️ “Polio is one of the few diseases that we can eradicate around the world in the coming years. It is a priority of the United Nations. ”@ Antonioguterres
Secretary General of the UN🇺🇳 https://t.co/WnSv8lBf9q
After a sharp drop in cases (from 306 in 2014 to 8 in 2017), the trend was reversed with twelve patients identified in 2018, then 144 in 2019, according to the UN. This Tuesday, WHO reported 17 patients in 2020, despite the mobilization of 265,000 agents. According to Pakistani authorities, this increase is due to "fake news" circulating on social networks and claiming that the vaccine kills children. Facebook has removed dozens of such videos.
A new anti-polio campaign started on Monday in Pakistan. It should result in the vaccination of 39 million children. In December, two police officers protecting anti-polio teams had already been shot in the North West. A health worker and two other police officers were also killed in April 2019.
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- Police officer