Kabul, Feb 24 (EFE).- Eight health workers were killed Thursday in separate attacks in northern Afghanistan during a polio immunization drive in a country where the disease remains endemic, the United Nations said.
The authorities immediately suspended the health campaign in the Kunduz and Takhar provinces.
“One member of the vaccination transit team was killed in Taloqan district in Takhar province, four members of house-to-house teams were killed in two separate incidents in Kunduz city. Two vaccinators and a social mobilizer were killed in Emamsaheb of Kunduz province,” the UN said in a statement.
The statement, however, did not mention who killed the health workers and how the assailants killed them.
“We are appalled by the brutality of these killings, across four separate locations,” the UN statement said.
It said any attack against health workers and those who work to defend them was an “attack on the children, whose very lives they are trying to protect.”
The statement recalled that it was not the first time health workers had “come under attack” in Afghanistan.
“In 2021, we witnessed the killings of nine innocent polio workers during national polio vaccination campaigns. These are the first attacks on polio workers since nationwide campaigns resumed in November last year.”
The United Nations extended its “deepest condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of these courageous health workers.”
Polio immunization campaigns are a vital and effective way to reach millions of children to protect them against the crippling disease since Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only countries in the world where it remains endemic.
“Depriving children from an assurance of a healthy life is inhumane,” the UN remarked.
The world body said the “senseless violence must stop immediately, and those responsible must be investigated and brought to justice.”
The war-torn country began a nationwide polio vaccination campaign for the first time in more than three years in November last year with the backing of the defacto Taliban government amid concerns for the safety of health workers due to frequent attacks against them.
Before the Taliban took control of Kabul on Aug.15 last year, the polio immunization campaign was restricted due to the conflict and opposition by fundamentalists to door-to-door vaccination in the territories under their control.
In June, during the national immunization campaign against the virus launched by the government ousted by the Taliban, five polio health workers were killed and four others injured in attacks in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan.
Two similar attacks took place in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar, on Mar.30 last year, in which three polio vaccinators were killed. EFE