5 Afghan polio vaccinators shot dead

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Kabul

At least five polio workers were shot dead in eastern Af-ghanistan on Tues-day, officials said, in the area’s second attacks on vaccina-tors in less than three months.

The workers were gunned down in three separate loca-tions within hours in a “coordinated attack”, Nangarhar provincial police spokesman Farid Khan said.

“This is the work of the Taliban, tar-geting health workers to deprive people of polio vaccines,” he said.

Health ministry spokesman Osman Taheri confirmed the attacks. The Taliban denied re-sponsibility.

Polio has been eradicated across the world apart from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where distrust of vaccines and eradi-cation campaigns is rife.

Tuesday saw five vaccine workers killed and one wounded in a spate of attacks across Nangarhar, the lo-cal government said. Three were also wounded in the provincial capi-tal, Jalalabad.

The inoculation drive in the prov-ince has now been halted, a health of-ficial told AFP.
“These were all targeted attacks against polio vac-cinators, and for now we have stopped all polio vaccination drives in Nangarhar prov-ince,” the official said, asking not to be named.

A top United Na-tions official, Ramiz Alakbarov, condemned Tues-day’s attacks. “Depriving chil-dren from an as-surance of a healthy life is in-humane,” Alak-barov, the UN Sec-retary General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, said on Twitter.

“Sense-less violence must stop now, those re-sponsible must be investigated and brought to justice.”

The country has faced a devastating wave of targeted attacks on politi-cians, activists and journalists which the Afghan gov-ernment and United States have blamed on the Taliban, who rou-tinely deny respon-sibility.

“We have reached a situation where systematically em-ployees of demin-ing, doctor, nurse, vaccinator, human rights defenders and anyone seeking to save our lives and our children are killed,” said Shaharzad Akbar, the head of Af-ghanistan’s Inde-pendent Human Rights Commis-sion. “There is neither an effective pre-vention mechanism nor a punishment for the perpetra-tors.”—AFP

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