Mother and daughter shot dead while immunising children from polio in Pakistan

The two were providing polio immunisation drops to children when two gunmen riding on a motorcycle shot them

A mother and daughter were shot dead while immunising kids from polio in Pakistan on Thursday.

The two were shot at by unidentified men on motorcycles in Pakistan’s Quetta city.

The attack took place as hundreds of polio teams, many of them volunteers, were out working on a campaign against the disease, police official Naseebullah Khan said.

Sakina Bibi, 50, and her 20-year-old daughter, Alizah, were providing polio immunisation drops to children when two gunmen riding on a motorcycle shot them. “Both died on their way to the hospital,” said Khan.

Quetta police spokesperson Abdul Rashid said that unidentified assailants shot the two women in the head after they had separated from the security team assigned to protect them during a vaccination campaign in the Shalkot area.

“It was an attack on the vaccination campaign,” Rashid said. The large-scale anti-polio campaign began on Monday aiming to immunise 38 million children nationwide. Here’s why you should get polio vaccination even though polio is eradicated in India.

Pakistan’s prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, condemned the attacks. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

“Polio teams are rendering a huge national service to save our children from the crippling disease. Attack on these dedicated workers, risking their lives for their nation, is an attack on our future,” Abbasi’s office said in a statement.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only three countries in the world where polio has still not been eliminated.

 In 2016, Pakistan recorded eight cases compared to 20 in 2015 and 306 in 2014. Armed attacks by fundamentalist groups against vaccinators and their bodyguards have been the main obstacle in the fight against the disease.

A colleague of the two women who did not wish to be named told the Guardian: “This is really tragic, that our colleagues have been killed in the line of duty in Quetta today. There may be various insights behind this incident but, for the national cause, government administration, security agencies and polio workers are still committed to keep campaigns continuing.”

Mahmood Jan, an Islamic cleric, said: “In Quetta and the surrounding districts of Balochistan, people fear espionage like [that carried out by] Shakil Afridi. People here mostly dislike NGO activities – polio being part of such activities.

“Currently, polio vaccination teams are guarded by police personnel. Hence scepticism of the high-profile campaign of the American agenda – and our government is promoting their agenda.”