The United Nations suspended all polio-related field activities in Pakistan on Wednesday after more attacks on public health workers attempting to immunise children. Two people were killed and another wounded around the northwestern city of Peshawar.
The shootings followed a day of violence on Tuesday in the port city of Karachi in which five female health workers were killed. The attacks Wednesday brought the death toll from the three-day polio immunisation campaign to eight people, most of them women.
The WHO and Unicef ordered their staff members off the streets in response to the latest shootings, although some provincial governments continued to immunise children.
The attacks Wednesday were concentrated in the districts around Peshawar. North of the city, a gunman riding a motorcycle killed a female health worker and her driver. Another driver was seriously wounded in a second incident close to the city center.
And in Nowshera, east of Peshawar, four female health workers reported being shot at but not hit.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban denied responsibility for the attacks, although the insurgents have a history of threatening polio eradication programs.
But the police in Peshawar said that Taliban fighters based in Mohmand tribal agency, north of Peshawar, were involved in at least two of the attacks in the Peshawar area.
One woman who came under fire described the attack, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. “Two people were riding a motorbike,” she said. “The one wearing a mask pulled out a gun and fired four shots. We shouted. The bullets whizzed past us but luckily we were safe.”
The lower house of Parliament adopted a unanimous resolution Wednesday condemning the attacks on polio campaign volunteers. “We cannot and would not allow polio to wreak havoc on the lives of our children,” Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said on Tuesday.