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International Community Seems Powerless To Stop Attacks On Polio Workers

Noting a number of attacks against polio workers in Pakistan over the past few months, Asif Saeed Memon, an associate fellow at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, writes in a Dawn.com opinion piece, “As a response to the attacks, the governments of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa suspended the campaign for a short period, while the United Nations removed some of its field personnel until they could receive guarantees of better security.” However, “[p]ublic response was initially slow to emerge,” he continues, adding, “As the full scale of the attacks became apparent and the number of victims increased, outrage grew … It was unclear which government — provincial or federal — was being held responsible.”

“While the debate continued, relevant stakeholders in the eradication campaign got together and realized that the very tool being used to promote polio eradication (the national polio drives) was helping militants target them,” Memon states, noting, “It was decided that instead of pre-announced national polio days, sets of districts would be targeted more quietly in a staggered way.” But this “did not work,” he says, noting, “Polio workers continued to be targeted, one at a time.” He adds, “In Pakistan, an activity which is relatively low-cost in per capita terms, has clear significant benefits for our children and society at large and requires no complicated transfer of technology or highly trained individuals, has become the victim of mass murdering fanatics, and we seem powerless to stop them” (4/14).