MARDAN: In the Rustam district of Mardan two policemen were killed in a gun attack on Wednesday, the police confirmed.

The two police officers were returning after security duty with a team of anti-polio vaccinators, according to the police. The deceased policemen were identified as Syed Ali Raza and Shakir.

A heavy contingent of police reached the site. The area was cordoned off and a search was on for the perpetrators.

In January, a policeman was killed in a similar attack targeting anti-polio vaccinators in Karak. The vaccinators remained unhurt in the attack.

Attempts to stamp it out have been badly hit by opposition from militants and attacks on immunisation teams that have claimed over 80 lives since December 2012.

Earlier this week, prime minister Imran Khan launched the National Anti-Polio drive in Islamabad.

The federal government has chalked out a comprehensive national emergency programme against polio, which is being carried out across the country in collaboration with the provinces.

Due to the present government’s efforts, only one case of polio has been reported in the last year. However, the campaign has been launched at a larger scale to ensure access to all children in the country.

Officials say about 223,000 health workers will spread out across the country to administer the oral drops against the highly infectious, water-borne disease that can cause irreversible paralysis.

In the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, health officials told RFE/RL that more than 6 million children were set to get the anti-polio drops.

Officials say more than 40,000 police officers have been deployed to ensure the security of the more than 30,000 mobile teams going door-to-door.

Previous anti-polio campaigns have been hampered by some parents’ refusal to have their children vaccinated.

Scores of health workers and police guarding them have been killed by militants over the past decade over claims the vaccination campaigns were intended to sterilize children and that health workers were acting as spies.

Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan are the only two remaining countries in the world where polio is still prevalent. Only one case of polio has been officially reported in Pakistan so far this year, in the southwestern Balochistan Province. In 2020, a total of 84 cases were registered in the country, including 22 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 26 in Balochistan.


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