National polio eradication campaign begins in Afghanistan | Latest News Headlines

National polio eradication campaign begins in Afghanistan

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The Taliban-led Afghan Ministry of Public Health announced the start of a four-day nationwide polio vaccination campaign aimed at immunizing children under 5

In the last three years before taking control of Afghanistan, the Taliban had banned UN-organized vaccination teams from carrying out door-to-door campaigns in parts of the country under their control. The group apparently suspected the team members of being spies for the previous government or the West.

Due to the ban and ongoing fighting, some 3.3 million children over the past three years have not been vaccinated.

“There is no doubt that polio is a disease which, left untreated, will kill our children or cause them permanent disability, so in this case the only way is to implement vaccination,” said Dr Qalandar Ebad. , Taliban Acting Minister of Public Health.

Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the only countries in the world where polio remains endemic and the disease can cause partial paralysis in children. Since 2010, the country has carried out regular vaccination campaigns during which workers go door to door to immunize children. Most of the workers are women, as they can have better access to mothers and children.

The four-day campaign will begin Monday and run across the country, Ebad said. The estimated target population is the 10 million Afghan children under 5, including more than 3.3 million who have not been reached since 2018.

“Vaccinating (children) under five in the country on National Immunization Days is a gigantic task. It is not possible for the Ministry of Public Health alone to carry out this task, so we need the support of all relevant departments, ”said Nek Wali Shah Momin, an official of the Ministry of Health. in the polio eradication department.

The Taliban’s endorsement of the campaign appears to be aimed at showing the international community that they are ready to cooperate with international agencies. The long-standing militant insurgency force is trying to gain global recognition for its new government and reopen the door for international aid to save the crumbling economy.

The World Health Organization and UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency, said last month in a joint statement that they welcomed the decision by the Taliban leadership to support the resumption of vaccinations against polio at home across the country.

Large areas of the country have been out of reach for vaccinations in recent years. In parts of the south, in particular, the Taliban ban was in effect. In other areas, door-to-door campaigns were impossible because of fighting between the government and insurgents, or because of fears of kidnappings or bombings. In some places, die-hard clerics have spoken out against vaccinations, calling them un-Islamic or claiming they are part of a Western conspiracy.

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