Seven private schools in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province have been sealed for inciting mass hysteria against the polio drive and discouraging parents from cooperating with vaccination teams.
Pakistan is one of the three countries, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio is still endemic.
Attempts to eradicate the crippling disease have been seriously hampered by deadly targeting of vaccination teams in recent years by militants, who oppose the drives, claiming the polio drops cause infertility.
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provincial government found the management of these schools guilty of spreading hate against polio vaccination, Babar Bin Atta, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Focal Person on Polio Eradication Programme, said in a tweet on Wednesday.
The schools were responsible for “inciting innocent parents to violence resulting in attacks on polio teams and mass hysteria,” he said.
On April 22, protesters burnt down a health facility in Peshawar following reports that multiple children have allegedly fallen sick after consuming anti-polio vaccine.
The violence led to the suspension of the anti-polio drive, involving 260,000 polio workers, and post-campaign evaluation of the Pakistan government.
The campaign aimed at administering polio drops to 39 million children under five years of age.
Officials believe the situation in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is turning out to be alarming since 10 of the total 15 polio cases have been reported from the province this year, the Express Tribune reported.
Atta had in a letter to provincial authorities earlier this month, said the current situation needed to be dealt efficiently and aggressively through collective efforts by all stakeholders.
However, the main responsibility fell on the shoulders of respective district management, he maintained.
Attacks on immunisation teams have claimed 68 lives since December 2012. Earlier this month, member of a polio monitoring team was gunned down on Monday by a man after a verbal brawl during a campaign at a village near Pak-Afghan border.
In January 2014, three workers were killed while in late 2012, five workers including four female workers were killed in Qayyumabad area.