WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- IntraHealth International strongly condemns the killings of at least eight health workers—seven of whom were female—over the past several days in Pakistan. According to the BBC and other news outlets, at least eight polio vaccination workers and one driver have been fatally shot, leading UNICEF to temporarily suspend its program to eradicate polio in Pakistan.
"These attacks on health workers who were providing essential humanitarian care to prevent a disease that cripples children are completely unacceptable," said Pape Gaye, IntraHealth's president and CEO. "We are especially appalled that women, who make up the majority of health workers, have once again been targeted by these cowardly perpetrators. We must help protect them to do their very best work so they may continue to save and improve lives—and not allow them to be attacked."
Yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and the GAVI Alliance issued a press release, joining the Government of Pakistan and the provinces of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in condemning the multiple attacks.
IntraHealth calls on the Government of Pakistan to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of its health workers and we support the All Pakistan Lady Health Workers Association's appeal for accountability in protecting health workers. We also ask the US Government to lend its support to government and civil society efforts to protect health workers. We also call on WHO to take immediate action in light of two resolutions it adopted earlier this year at the World Health Assembly: one requires WHO to lead international data collection of attacks on health workers, facilities, transports and patients, and the other declared polio eradication a programmatic emergency for global health.
Pakistan is one of three countries in the world in which polio is still considered endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria. In 2012, Pakistan reported 47 cases of this debilitating disease, Nigeria reported 97 cases, and Afghanistan reported 26 cases, according to WHO. Polio can lead to irreversible paralysis, usually in the legs, and sometimes death. During this vaccination campaign in Pakistan, an estimated 80,000 health workers were deployed and 5.2 million infants were expected to receive the polio vaccine, which is administered orally by drops.
Although no individual group has accepted responsibility for these killings, the Taliban have threatened to dismantle the polio campaign in recent days. In the past, foreign workers with nongovernmental organizations have been kidnapped and killed in attempts to stop immunization drives, which the Taliban and other militant groups have said are attempts to support espionage or cause sterility in those vaccinated.
IntraHealth International is a global health nonprofit that champions the critical role of health workers in health and development. For over 30 years, in almost 100 countries, IntraHealth has empowered hundreds of thousands of health workers to better serve communities in need, fostering local solutions to health care challenges by improving health worker performance, strengthening health systems, harnessing technology, and leveraging partnerships. IntraHealth has offices in Chapel Hill, NC, Washington, DC, and 15 countries worldwide. The nonprofit's work is supported and funded by the US Agency for International Development, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, private foundations, corporations, and individuals. Follow IntraHealth on Twitter @intrahealth and Facebook at facebook.com/IntraHealth.
SOURCE IntraHealth International