Conflicts & War

Five polio health workers shot dead in Afghanistan

Kabul, June 15 (EFE).- Militants killed five health workers and wounded four in a series of attacks on anti-polio teams in the eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan on Tuesday, officials said.

The officials said the attacks took place in Surkhrod and Khogyani districts and Jalalabad city of the volatile province a day after the national immunization campaign against the virus kicked off in the country.

Ramiz Alakbarov, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, said the gunmen attacked health workers during “their life-saving work” in five locations in Nangarhar province.

“Five were killed, and four were injured in five separate incidents,” Alakbarov said in a statement.

He said he was “appalled by the brutality of these killings.”

It is not the first time health workers have come under attack.

Three polio workers were shot dead during the national polio vaccination campaign in March in Jalalabad city of the Nangarhar province.

“Such senseless violence must stop immediately, and those responsible must be investigated and brought to justice,” Alakbarov said.

“Polio immunization campaigns are a vital and effective way to reach millions of children to protect them against polio. Depriving children from an assurance of a healthy life is inhumane.”

The UN statement said the delivery of health care “is impartial and any attack against health workers and those who work to defend them is an attack on the children.”

The authorities in the eastern province suspended the national polio vaccination campaign that began on Monday.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two countries in the world with active polio cases.

Afghanistan recorded 303 new cases of polio in 2020, the highest in almost a decade.

Rapid transmission of the virus in southern and eastern Afghanistan is one of the biggest problems the authorities face to eliminate the disease.

Security problems and lack of cooperation from the Taliban in allowing house-to-house vaccination in areas under their control have also put hurdles in the campaign.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest in a string of targeted killings in the country.

Such killings have picked up pace in the last more than a year, coinciding with the signing of a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban in Qatar in February 2020.

Journalists, rights activists, intellectuals, and religious leaders are common victims of the target killings.

The government blames the Taliban for such target killings. But the insurgent group has rejected the claim. EFE


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