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Killing Of Polio Workers In Pakistan Is Major Setback For Global Elimination Drive

“The brutal assassination of nine grassroots level health workers in Pakistan, who were involved in a door-to-door immunization campaign in an attempt to secure children from crippling polio, adds an unprecedentedly grave dimension to the ongoing carnage in Pakistan,” Sania Nishtar, founder of Heartfile, Heartfile Health Financing, and the recently launched Sania Nishtar Health Fund, writes in an opinion piece in the Huffington Post U.K.’s “Impact” blog. “[T]he occurrence has deep-seated implications for the global drive to eliminate an infectious disease for a second time from this planet,” she continues, adding, “Additionally, it illustrates the nature of polarization, mistrust and extremism, which has crept into the Pakistani society, posing challenges on many fronts, beyond public health.”

“This tragedy comes at a time when the Independent Monitoring Board of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, in its November 2012 report had just issued a positive note about Pakistan with regard to its efforts to curb polio,” Nishtar states. “The recent wave of killing … added another level of challenges to the existing multidimensional problems for vaccination,” she writes, highlighting a number of these challenges. She concludes, “Pakistan now has a three-fold responsibility: addressing systemic polio eradication impediments, getting vaccination back on track with appropriate security cover for more 90,000 vaccinators, and reaching out to the masses with the right information to ally mistrust” (1/2).