Recent murders of medical aid workers in Pakistan endanger not just the lives of Pakistani children but also global efforts to eradicate polio, Lib Dem Euro MP Phil Bennion told the European Parliament this afternoon.
Proposing a joint resolution condemning the attacks on behalf of the ALDE group, Dr Bennion said the attacks on nurses and staff trying to immunize 33 million children in Pakistan were a threat to one of the world’s most important public health campaigns.
On New Years Day, six medical aid workers and a doctor were gunned down in the Swabi region, just 45 miles northwest of the capital Islamabad. In December, nine polio eradication workers, six of them women, were shot in Karachi and Peshawar, with further attacks at the end of January.
The West Midlands MEP, a member of the Parliament’s South Asia Delegation, said: ”I would like to express my condolences to the families of those killed in these appalling attacks.
“These medical aid workers were involved in a polio eradication campaign to immunize 33 million children in Pakistan, where polio is still a massive public health problem.
“These terrorist attacks are very worrying. Not only because they are becoming more frequent and targeting women and girls - I think of Malala Yousafzai - and aid workers.
"They are also particularly concerning because they seem to reflect a link in the minds of militants between aid workers and the ruling power, the military or western forces.
"The Taliban and their allies are putting out propaganda that these medical aid workers are spies.
“This must be challenged at all costs. I call on the very vibrant media and civil society in Pakistan but also the Government to step up efforts to defend the independence of medical aid workers who need a humanitarian space to operate safely.
“I certainly welcome the recent efforts of the government of Pakistan to ensure safety during medical campaigns. It needs to be continued and stepped up.
“The fight against polio is not just a public health concern in Pakistan but worldwide. We all have an interest in seeing this vaccination drive carried out successfully to help us eradicate polio forever.”
Dr Bennion also referred to a section of the resolution regarding elections due in Pakistan shortly, stressing the need to ensure confidence in the process by sending international observers.
“I hope that a formal invitation letter will be sent by the Pakistan government as soon as possible in order for the European Union to send electoral observation support.
“Free and fair elections along with a strong elected Government of Pakistan are crucial for stability and security in both Pakistan and the region as a whole.”
In a vote this afternoon after the debate, the resolution was carried unanimously.
Note: The full text of the resolution as adopted by the European Parliament today can be seen at: