For two polio vaccinators, insisting on vaccinating children spelt disaster as a man turned the gun on them in Saeedabad, Baldia Town on Tuesday. The attacker was, however, overpowered by policemen and no one was injured.
While the immunisation drive was suspended temporarily, authorities decided to continue the campaign on Wednesday (today) after police and district authorities assured them of increased security cover in high-risk areas.
“We went to a house in the street in front of a football ground in Baldia Town’s union council No 4 and knocked on the door. A man came out and angrily asked us to leave as he didn’t want to get his children vaccinated. We tried to persuade him but he brought a pistol and started firing aerial shots,” said Raheela, who with her colleague Sehrish were administering polio drops in the neighbourhood.
The vaccinators got frightened and ran for cover as two policemen deployed around the corner for their security took on the attacker. “The man also fired at the cops but they bravely got hold of him,” Raheela added.
Baldia SP Shah Jahan claimed a group of armed men started firing when health workers entered the area to administer polio vaccine drops to children. “A heavy contingent of police rushed to Saeedabad and arrested nine attackers after an exchange of fire. We found eight pistols on them,” he added.
An official associated with the anti-polio campaign said lady health workers were frightened after the attack on vaccinators and wanted to stop the operation. “On the assurance of senior police officials and the respective deputy commissioners, the vaccinators resumed the campaign after security was stepped up in the area,” said Liaquat, a World Health Organisation-appointed worker.
The health authorities decided to continue the drive across the province, including Karachi, where over 2.2 million children would be immunised during the three-day drive.
Expanded Programme for Immunisation (EPI) Project Director Mazhar Khamesani said the drive would continue despite the untoward incident in Baldia Town. “Adequate security with the vaccinators prevented any harm to them.”
The deputy commissioners of the five districts in Karachi were looking after the security arrangements and had beefed up security for polio workers in high-risk union councils, Khamesani said.
The national polio immunisation drive started on Monday across Sindh with the aim to vaccinate approximately 7.632 million children. Caretaker health minister Dr Junaid Ali Shah had launched the drive in Karachi.