MEPs have condemned recent attacks on medical aid workers in Pakistan.
Since last December alone, 19 medical aid workers have been killed or wounded while delivering polio vaccination programmes: the disease remains endemic in the country, with 198 infections in 2011.
In June 2012 a Ghanaian doctor working for the World Health Organisation (WHO) was wounded in an attack while helping fight polio in Karachi.
Green MEP Jean Lambert, who chairs the European Parliament’s South Asia delegation, said the attacks, which have led to the WHO and UNICEF suspending polio vaccination campaigns in the country, were the responsibility of the Taliban – who are suspected of carrying out the attacks – and the CIA.
She said: “Most of these awful attacks on health workers have been linked to the Taliban, and are thought to have been sparked by campaigns by repressive groups spreading rumours that the vaccine is actually intended to make Muslim children sterile.
“Another cause is likely to be the CIA’s use of polio vaccination campaigns for espionage activities.”
Ms Lambert said the EU should help fund security so the UNICEF and WHO campaigns can resume quickly and called on governments worldwide to stop using medical campaigns as cover for intelligence and other military activities.
“I am full of admiration for the courage and determination of those health workers, many of them women, who continue their work despite the recent attacks, and I applaud the Pakistani government’s commitment to eradicating polio from within its borders, but international efforts to help simply must resume immediately,” she added.
“The interruption of the UNICEF and WHO polio vaccination programs in Pakistan not only deprive the country’s most vulnerable people, especially children, of basic life-saving health interventions, it also deals a serious blow to worldwide efforts to eradicate the disease once and for all.
“I am delighted therefore that MEPs have today backed the call for the programme to resume immediately, with financial support to meet security costs met by the EU and its member states, including the UK, if necessary.”