Quetta (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 14 people died this morning in the explosion of a bomb near a polio vaccination center in Quetta, Balochistan (south-west of Pakistan). Most of the victims were security guards patrolling the clinic. Another 20 people were injured.
Minister of Balochistan province, Sarfaraz Bugti, said that the attack occurred before security officers began patrols around the structure: "We live in a war zone - he added - and I can say nothing about the nature of the explosion. "
Pakistan, together with Afghanistan, is the only country in the world where polio is still endemic. Clinics for vaccination are always controlled by the security forces, as the subject of frequent attacks by the Taliban. The militiamen consider vaccination a Western conspiracy to sterilize Pakistani children and of infiltrating spies among health care workers.
Pakistan remains a strong prejudice against vaccines. In 2012 the government blocked the distribution of anti polio medicines to 250 thousand children after threats from some Taliban groups.
The opposition to vaccines is also religiously motivated. During the latest round of vaccinations, parents of more than 21 thousand children refused treatment, 21% of which for religious reasons. They fear the introduction of impure substances into their children’s’ bodies.
After international pressure, last March the Pakistani authorities arrested more than 470 parents and issued a warrant for the arrest of hundreds of others, for opposing the vaccination campaign.
In August 2015, religious leaders and Muslim scholars came out stating that the polio vaccine does not go against the precepts of Islam and reflects the practices of the Sunna.
2014 was one of the worst years for the number of attacks on clinics and number of infections (306) registered in the country. In 2015, vaccination reached new areas of Pakistan and polio cases declined.