U.N. suspends polio program in Pakistan

Dec. 19, 2012 at 7:04 AM

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- The United Nations halted its polio immunization program in Pakistan Wednesday after three workers were killed in attacks in Peshawar, officials said.

The attacks Wednesday followed a day of multiple attacks in Karachi in which four health workers died and an attack in Peshawar in which one worker was killed, CNN reported.

The attacks Wednesday bring the death toll from the three-day polio vaccination program to eight, most of them women.

The World Health Organization and UNICEF ordered their staffs off the streets in response to the latest attacks, even though some provincial governments continued to immunize children, The New York Times reported.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban denied responsibility for the attacks, even though the insurgents have threatened polio eradication programs, claiming they are a cover for U.S. spying, the Times reported. Their suspicion about the program and its workers were goaded by the case of Shakil Afridi, a doctor from the tribal areas who was paid by the CIA to run a sham hepatitis vaccination campaign near Osama bin Laden's house in Abbottabad before the May 2011 U.S. commando raid that killed the al-Qaida founder.

The country's lower house of Parliament Wednesday unanimously adopted a resolution 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 Tuesday.

Polio has been eradicated around the world except for Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan, where it is endemic.

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