Pakistan launches new anti-polio drive after 3rd case found

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan launched a new anti-polio drive on Monday, more than a week after officials detected the third case so far this year in the country’s northwestern region bordering Afghanistan.

The campaign — the third one this year — is to last for five days, aiming to inoculate 40 million children under the age of 5 across the country.

Pakistan has previously carried out two anti-polio campaigns this year, in January and March, after discovering only one case of the disease last year, which raised hopes the country was close to eliminating polio. This year’s first case was registered in April.

A statement from Dr. Shahbaz Baig, the spokesperson for the country’s polio program, urged parents to cooperate with polio workers in the door-to-door campaign.

Pakistan’s anti-polio campaigns are regularly marked by violence. Islamic militants often target polio teams and police assigned to protect them, falsely claiming the vaccination campaigns are a Western conspiracy to sterilize children.

During the March campaign, gunmen in northwestern Pakistan shot and killed a female polio worker as she was returning home after a day of vaccinations. And in January, gunmen shot and killed a police officer providing security for polio vaccination workers, also in the country’s northwest.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only remaining countries in the world still trying to eradicate polio, which can cause severe paralysis in children.

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