More polio workers killed in Pakistan

Three more polio workers were murdered in northwest Pakistan by unidentified assailants, bringing the total killed to nine in less than a week.

The World Health Organization said that the Pakistani government, in response to the attacks, has suspended the three-day polio vaccination campaign being conducted across the country, according to ScienceMag.org.

The three victims were shot in Peshawar, Nowshera and Charsadda, all located in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Another polio worker was injured in a shooting the same day. Earlier in the week, five polio workers were shot and killed in Karachi, which is located at the southern tip of Pakistan.

No group has taken responsibility for the killings, but Islamic extremists are suspected. Several prominent members of the Pakistani Taliban have spoken out against polio vaccination, which they claimed is a Western plot to sterilize Muslims.

“For sure this is a major setback,” Oliver Rosenbauer, a spokesman for the WHO, said, ScienceMag.org reports.

Rosenbauer said that the next step will be to address the root causes of the attacks and then to find a way to conduct future campaigns safely. He did not say when the vaccination campaigns could resume, but mentioned that campaigns in other countries had been temporarily suspended but resumed when different factions reached common ground on protecting children’s health.

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