Clerics in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and adjoining tribal areas have refused to continue supporting the immunisation campaigns sponsored by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). This has taken place over claims that a UNICEF official has discredited them.
Prayer leaders and teachers in seminaries have been working with National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF) and UNICEF since November 2009 to reduce the number of the people refusing to get their children vaccinated against polio.
However, many religious scholars, who have been working with the NRDF, claimed that UNICEF had been discrediting them by claiming that they're paid for immunisation support and cooperation, despite their working on a voluntary basis.
"We have been working with Unicef on voluntary basis and had brought down refusals to 840 from 26000 in Peshawar during the past one year," the Dawn quoted a cleric, as saying.
According to the report, the NRDF wrote a letter to UNICEF expressing displeasure over one of its officials bringing ulema into disrespect.
"We want to formally quit its organisational activities related to Polio Eradication and expanded programme on immunisation (EPI) under the current Project Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Unicef until remedial organisational measures are taken to rebuild the lost confidence of our field workers and resume meaningful activities," the letter stated.
He said a senior Peshawar-based UNICEF official had given a presentation to a district coordination officer in which he said UNICEF was paying money to religious leaders for anti-immunisation support and cooperation, the paper said.
A majority of 7,000 ulema had communicated to NRDF that they were not willing to support the immunization campaign, especially polio, which has prompted NRDF to quit the project, it added.