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  • Dec 19th, 2012
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Gunmen shot five health workers on an anti-polio drive in a string of attacks in country on Tuesday, officials said, raising fears for the safety of workers immunising children against the crippling disease. Health officials suspended the immunisation campaign in Karachi. Three women were killed and a man was wounded in two separate attacks on health workers in city on Tuesday, said senior police superintendent Imran Shaukat.

The team had received telephone calls warning workers they would regret helping the "infidel" campaign against polio, said health official Gul Naz, who oversees project in the area where the women were shot. An anti-polio worker in Karachi was shot dead on Monday, the United Nations said. In Peshawar, gunmen on a motorbike shot a 17-year-old girl supervising an anti-polio campaign, said government official Javed Marwar.

She died of her wounds in hospital, a doctor said. All of the victims were Pakistanis working with a UN-backed programme to eradicate polio, which attacks the nervous system and can cause permanent paralysis within hours of infection. It has been eradicated in all but a handful of countries but at least 35 children in Pakistan have been infected this year. Sindh Health Minister Saghir Ahmed said the government had told 24,000 polio workers it was suspending the anti-polio drive in the province.

Officials could not confirm if all the attacks were linked to the health campaign, said Matthew Coleman, a spokesman for the United Nations Children's Fund. Many of the attacks occurred in areas notorious for gun violence but the situation was a worry, he said. "We're concerned for the safety of front-line workers. They are the true heroes," he said.

Copyright Reuters, 2012

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