Five female Pakistani polio vaccination workers have been shot dead in a string of co-ordinated attacks – four within 20 minutes across Karachi.
The fifth woman was shot and wounded in the city of Peshawar in the north-west and later died of her injuries.
A UN-backed programme to eradicate polio – which is endemic in Pakistan – has been suspended in Karachi.
No group has said it carried out the shootings, but the Taliban have issued threats against the polio drive.
“These were pre-planned and co-ordinated attacks in various localities which took place within a span of 20 minutes,” Imran Javed, a police spokesman told the BBC of Tuesday’s attacks in Karachi.
This ought to be considered a crime against humanity. The victims of this crime are not just these 5 women, nor only the children they would have served, nor even the children that will no longer receive a vaccine drop. Rather, the victims of this attack is every human being on the planet.
Polio is a highly contagious virus. There are only three countries left on the planet in which it remains endemic: Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The total eradication of polio is possible, but it first requires that polio is defeated in these three countries. Deliberately targeting people working to inoculate children undermines a common, global effort to stamp out this disease. We are all now marginally more exposed to polio because children around Karachi will no longer receive their vaccines.
Polio will not be eradicated globally until Pakistan is no longer a polio endemic country. These murdered health workers were doing their job in the service of children, but also in the service of humanity.