Nationwide polio eradication campaign starts in Afghanistan

Islamabad: The Taliban-run Afghan public health ministry announced Sunday the start of a four-day nationwide polio vaccination campaign aimed at inoculating children under age 5.

For the past three years before taking control of Afghanistan, the Taliban had barred UN-organised vaccination teams from doing door-to-door campaigns in parts of the country under their control.

The group apparently was suspicious the team members could be spies for the previous government or the West.

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

Without any doubt polio is a disease that without treatment will either kill our children or cause them with permanent disability, so in this case the only way is to implement the vaccination, said Dr. Qalandar Ebad, the Taliban's acting public health minister.

Afghanistan and neighbouring 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 been carrying out regular inoculation campaigns in which workers go door to door, giving the vaccine to children. Most of the workers are women, since they can get better access to mothers and children.

The four-day campaign will start Monday and take place countrywide, Ebad said.

The estimated target population is Afghanistan's 10 million children under age 5, including the more than 3.3 million who could not be reached since 2018.

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