Gunmen fatally shot a police officer assigned to protect polio workers in Pakistan’s northwest

4 June, 2024

Dear HIFA and CHIFA colleagues,

A lack of basic reliable healthcare information not only leads to poor quality care, it leads to murder.

HIFA and CHIFA have been following with great sadness the deaths of dozens if not hundreds of polio workers (and those who protect them) in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria for many years. It is an indictment of the international health communication community that this gross misinformation and murder persists.

Today I learned of another killing in Pakistan:


PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Gunmen fatally shot a police officer assigned to protect polio workers in Pakistan’s northwest, an official said Monday.

At least 11 police have died this year while on security duty for vaccination campaigns in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The gunmen fired at a team working in the Wargari area of Lakki Marwat district, said police official Sajid Khan. One of the attackers also died, while the remaining assailants fled.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the assault.

Anti-polio campaigns in Pakistan are regularly marred by violence. Militants target vaccination teams and police assigned to protect them, falsely claiming that the campaigns are a Western conspiracy to sterilize children.

A five-day anti-polio campaign started Monday in nine high-risk districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Health workers are tasked with administering vaccines to some 3.28 million children under age 5. More than 26,000 police are protecting the teams.

Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan are the only countries where the spread of polio has never been stopped.

The potentially fatal, paralyzing disease mostly strikes children under age 5 and typically spreads through contaminated water.


The work of polio vaccine workers is heroic and everything should be done to protect them from harm. Having armed guards may help. But basic healthcare knowledge is the only sustainable solution.

I look forward to hear your thoughts.

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: