KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Attackers on Tuesday shot dead three women trying to administer anti-tuberculosis vaccines in eastern Afghanistan, officials said, adding that authorities had launched a new crackdown on children with the disease a day later.
The women were killed in two separate attacks in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province. Fared Khan, a spokesman for the Nangarhar police, said two had been shot dead in the 7th District and a third had been killed in the 4th District.
According to the governor’s office, local media outlets reported that no arrests had been made so far. The official, who was not authorized to speak to the media, spoke on condition of anonymity.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but eastern Afghanistan has seen an increase in attacks by Islamic State militants. IS militants have declared war on Shiites, often targeting thousands of the country’s minority.
The government on Monday launched the next round of polio vaccinations in the country, aiming to vaccinate 9.6 million children under the age of five. Polio treatment came after 54 new cases of polio were registered in 2020, the highest number since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
According to the United Nations, Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the only two countries in the world where polio is still endemic, after Nigeria was declared free of wild poliovirus last year. With the rise of polio over the past three years, the fight to eradicate the catastrophic disease of children has become a key challenge for Afghanistan.
Most vaccination campaigns across the country are carried out by women health workers who, through door-to-door efforts, have better access to households, mothers and children.
Earlier this month, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the killing of three women working for a local radio and television station in Alalabad. Mursal Vahidi, Sadia Sadat և Shahnaz Rauf left their job together վել were killed in separate attacks on their way home.
At the same time, many other attacks went unanswered. The government blames the resurrected Taliban, who now oppress almost half of the country. For their part, the Taliban deny any role in some of the attacks and blame the government.