These murders come a few weeks after nine health workers with national polio campaign were killed in different parts of the country in what police said was a coordinated attack. That prompted the Pakistani government and the United Nations agencies to suspend their vaccination drive for the disease, which has seen a uptick in cases in recent years.
Pakistan is one out of the three countries where polio persists; at least 57 cases were registered in 2012. The World Health Organization last year warned Pakistan that it could face travel and visa restrictions and sanctions imposed by other countries if polio continues to spread.
Distrust of public health initiatives like the polio campaign is particularly strong in districts of Pakistan where religious extremists have tightened their grip. That sentiment deepened in 2011 after the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden. A CIA-led operation to confirm Mr. bin Laden’s location in the city of Abbottabad used a hepatitis B vaccination campaign to gather DNA evidence on bin Laden.
The recent attacks are likely to further frighten people from working with foreign and Pakistani aid and development organizations, says Bushra Arain, chairwoman for the All Pakistan Lady Health Workers Welfare Association, which counts more than 100,000 registered members.