The World Health Organisation (WHO)and its sister agency, the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) last night joined the condemnation of the killing of nine health workers in Nigeria’s Kano state on Friday.
According to the agencies, the killing of the health workers by unidentified gunmen is a double tragedy for Nigeria which is desperately seeking to eradicate polio and other diseases in the country. The international organisations, which said they would continue to support the Nigerian government in spite of the harsh conditions of the country, said: "We join the Nigerian Government in condemning attacks on health workers in Kano state. These attacks are double tragedy for health workers and family, and for children robbed of live-saving health interventions."
The organisations which described the incident as "appalling" added that the attack was unacceptable under any circumstances since the victims were only saving the lives of the country’s children. They raised fears that the country may begin to lack volunteers as a result of the unfavourable circumstances facing it. The joint statement by the organisations was signed by WHO’s Communications Officer, Tarik Jasarevic, and UNICEF spokesperson, Sarah Crowe.The nine health workers were shut in separate incidents in Kano state according to the police.
In one of the incidents, the health workers who were on official duty vaccinating children against polio were shot dead by gunmen who rode on a motorcycle. The second incident happened thirty minutes later at a clinic in Hotoro, outside Kano city while the vaccinators prepared to start work. The gunmen also got to the clinic on a motorcycle. Some Nigerian Muslim leaders have previously opposed polio vaccinations, claiming they could cause infertility. The incident happened barely 24 hours after a controversial Islamic cleric, which was not named, spoke out against the polio vaccination campaign, telling the people that new cases of polio were caused by contaminated medicine.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative had last year listed Nigeria as one of the countries with the highest incidents of polio as according to its statistics, there were 121 cases of the disease in the country last year, compared to 58 in Pakistan and 37 in Afghanistan. President Goodluck Jonathan had earlier condemned the attacks describing the two incidents as dastardly terrorist attacks.