ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has assured the United Nations that its Foreign Office’s statement suggesting the involvement of UN agencies in fake polio vaccination campaign in Dr Shakil Afridi’s case was “categoriclaly incorrect and made in error,” the world body claimed on Monday.
“Following the erroneous statement made on 8 May 2014, the United Nations formally objected to the government of Pakistan, from which it immediately received assurances that the statement made by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was categorically incorrect and made in error. The WHO welcomes this clarification by the government and trusts that the erroneous statement will be fully retracted,” said a UN statement issued on Monday.
The statement said the World Health Organisation (WHO) is “deeply concerned by the circulation of an incorrect statement that was made during a press conference convened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday 8 May 2014, which wrongly and erroneously alleged the involvement of United Nations agencies in events conducted by Dr Shakeel Afridi.”
Last Friday, in the WHO’s first public response to the FO spokesperson’s related statement exclusively shared with Daily Times, the UN agency’s chief strongly rejected the allegations in an exclusive conversation with this correspondent, quoted in the story “UN rejects Pakistan’s allegations on fake polio campaign,” printed on Saturday. “Totally incorrect and untrue” was the reaction of the WHOs Acting Country Representative in Pakistan Dr Nima Saeed Abid. “This is an unfounded allegation that holds no ground.” The UN, he said, conveyed its concerns to the Foreign Office regarding the accusations on Friday.
FO spokesperson Tasnim Aslam Khan was in Saudi Arabia on Monday to participate in a meeting of the senior officials of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) in Jeddah. She could not be reached for comments. Earlier on Thursday, in response to a question during the weekly press briefing, Tasnim Khan stated, “We have been pointing out to the WHO the difficulties we face which include the security situation in certain pockets, the threat of terrorism, attacks on polio workers, also excessive focus on one type of vaccination i.e. polio while children require a cluster of nine vaccines.
“This created some doubts about the agenda of vaccination among people. On top of that, a fake campaign of vaccination was conducted in Pakistan in which the UN agencies were also used. I am referring to Dr Shakil Afridi’s case. This further reinforced the negative perception about the agenda behind the polio eradication campaign. We have been trying to overcome that. The religious scholars have been involved to educate and enlighten the population. We have been discussing these issues with WHO.”
In Monday’s statement, WHO said it “reaffirms its unequivocal position that all health programmes, including immunisation campaigns, must be used only for their intended humanitarian purpose of protecting and promoting health. The WHO continues to categorically deplore the use of health interventions for any other reason. The WHO reiterates that there is absolutely no connection whatsoever between WHO and the ‘fake vaccination campaign’ conducted by Dr Afridi.”
The statement reiterated that the UN agency and its partners were committed to supporting the government and people of Pakistan in their efforts to implement fully the polio eradication strategies, improve the health of their children, and participate in the “legacy of a polio-free world.” According to a diplomatic source, the WHO’s recommendations from earlier last week, suggesting the imposition of travel restrictions on Pakistani travellers on international flights, owing to rising number of polio cases, adversely affected the relations between Pakistan and the UN.
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