The killing of polio health workers and personnel deputed with them to provide security has become regular news in Pakistan. The series of incidents that have occured across the country from Karachi to Peshawar have neither prompted any significant change in the state’s approach towards the issue nor invited a strong reaction from the general public. Just this week, two Lady Health Workers and their guard were gunned down in Mansehra, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. In another attack in the Kamangara area of Bajaur Agency, one health worker named Roohullah was killed and another identified as Arifullah was seriously injured.

All this has happened while the government was conducting a three-day National Polio Campaign, which started on Monday with the aim to vaccinate 35.5 million children below the age of five. During the first two days, 16,000 families refused to get their children vaccinated. Apart from that, 610,333 children were not available at homes when the teams visited. The campaign was postponed in several areas due to a variety of reasons mainly security, weather and non-availability of staff. The nature of the problem is such that unless the state and people do not completely eradicate it, they will remain vulnerable as ever. But the reponse doesn’t reflect the necessary sense of urgency and seriousness. No serious steps have been taken to prevent the targeting of Health Workers. The government feels that its responsibility extends to only providing a couple of guards to vaccination teams when it is clear that it is required to do so much more.

With this approach, the state cannot be expected to overcome the crisis. The problem is not restricted to Peshawar or tribal areas as cases have been recorded in Karachi and interior Sindh as well. Most health workers belong to the poor section of society and perform an extremely dangerous job for very little in return. The government must not fail them and the rest of the country.