ISLAMABAD - The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday showed its deep concerns over what it said the ‘incorrect’ statement made by Foreign Office that UN agencies were involved in fake vaccination drive, saying such assertions would have serious impact on the safety of polio workers in the country.
“WHO is deeply concerned by the circulation of an incorrect statement that was made during a press conference convened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday (May 8) which wrongly and erroneously alleged the involvement of UN agencies in events conducted by Dr Shakeel Afridi,” a statement issued here stated.
Although the government has clarified its position that the statement made by Foreign Office spokeswoman was incorrect, WHO Country Representative Dr Nima Abdi told The Nation it would have been useful if the ministry had issued press statement when the UN officially communicated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“On Friday morning, the official website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs flashed the statement attributed to UN agencies regarding its involvement in fake vaccination campaigns until it was changed later. Such statements could prove lethal in a country where polio workers are already under threat,” Dr Abidi told this reporter.
The statement issued here said WHO reaffirms its unequivocal position that all health programmes, including immunisation campaigns, must be used only for their intended humanitarian purpose of protecting and promoting health. WHO continues to categorically deplore the use of health interventions for any other reason. WHO reiterates that there is absolutely no connection whatsoever between WHO and the “fake vaccination campaign” conducted by Dr Shakil Afridi.
While the Foreign Office still blames INGOs for being misused in fake vaccination drives including the one in which Dr Shakil Afridi was used to locate al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, the FO on Monday was too cautious to clarify its stance regarding the involvement of UN agencies in immunisation campaigns.
FO Spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam could not be reached for comments as she was abroad while Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry declined to give his official version in wake of the WHO’s reaction due to sensitivity of the issue but assured that he will seek the answer from spokeswoman.