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Editorial: Inhuman, irresponsible trend of health worker assassinations

Five healthcare workers working door to door to vaccinate children against polio were shot dead by gunmen in five separate incidents in eastern Nangarhar province. No words can justify the senseless murder of healthcare workers. They were simply discharging their lifesaving polio vaccination and they were engaged in civic services. They were ordinary Afghans who wanted to make sure no children under age of five remain from two drops of vaccine as part of polio eradication initiative and also to prevent the children from being paralyzed. Their crime was to stop the transmission of this virus and eradicate this scourge. The disgraceful targeting of health workers is an act of cruelty, and those who are behind such assassinations are the destruction force. In March, unknown gunmen killed three female polio vaccination workers in Jalalabad that forced the workers to suspend their operations. The polio vaccination campaign was suspected and it’s not clear when it would resume. In the two years, positive cases of polio have increased. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two remaining countries where polio is endemic. Nigeria was declared free of the virus last year. The attack comes at a time when Afghanistan launched a campaign to inoculate over 9 million children against polio with the help of UNICEF. Afghanistan reported 54 new cases of polio last year, a surge in cases as the country is also scrambling with coronavirus. The new infections and COVID-19 related deaths overwhelmed Afghanistan’s health care system. Not only in Afghanistan, but also in Pakistan polio vaccination teams are coming under attack. Even vaccination centers and health workers were attacked in the past. Some religious figures claim that anti-polio drives are part of an alleged western conspiracy to sterilize children. Even they are provoking the parents not to let their children be vaccinated. Many people in conservative society oppose the vaccination drive, and it’s widely believed among people in remote areas that the drive is being used by the west as a cover for spying. Afghanistan and Pakistan are not good friends at all, mistrust is there, but this time they need to join hands in the fight against those elements targeting health workers and also launch operations against those circles spreading propaganda against polio vaccination drive.

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