Hugh Pickens writes "Jamal Khan reports that the United Nations has suspended its polio vaccination drive in Pakistan after eight people involved in the effort were shot dead in the past few days. The killings dealt a grave blow to the drive to bring an end to the scourge of polio in Pakistan, one of only three countries where the crippling disease still survives. Militants accuse health workers of acting as spies for the U.S. and claim the vaccine makes children sterile. Taliban commanders in the troubled northwest tribal region have also said vaccinations can't go forward until the U.S. stops drone strikes in the country. Insurgent opposition to the campaign grew last year after it was revealed that a Pakistani doctor ran a fake polio vaccination program to help the CIA track down and kill Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in the town of Abbottabad in the country's northwest. The Pakistani government has condemned the attacks against aid workers, saying they deprive Pakistan's most vulnerable populations — specifically children — of basic life-saving health interventions. A total of 56 polio cases have been reported in Pakistan during 2012, down from 190 the previous year, according to the U.N. Most of the new cases in Pakistan are in the northwest, where the presence of militants makes it difficult to reach children. Clerics and tribal elders were recruited to support polio vaccinations in an attempt to open up areas previously inaccessible to health workers. 'This is undoubtedly a tragic setback,' says UNICEF spokeswoman Sarah Crowe, 'but the campaign to eradicate polio will and must continue.'"
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