March 28, 2023

The well being ministry says the four-day marketing campaign will cowl greater than 9 million kids in 31 of the nation’s 34 provinces.

The Taliban administration in Afghanistan has launched the annual polio inoculation marketing campaign aimed toward reaching greater than 9 million kids beneath the age of 5, the well being ministry mentioned.

Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the final international locations with endemic polio, an incurable and extremely infectious illness that may trigger crippling paralysis – and even demise – in younger kids.

Polio has been just about eradicated globally by way of a decades-long inoculation drive. However insecurity, inaccessible terrain, mass displacement and suspicion of out of doors interference have hampered mass vaccination in Afghanistan and a few areas of Pakistan.

Nek Wali Shah Momin, director of Afghanistan’s Nationwide Emergency Operation Middle (EOC) for Polio Eradication, mentioned many extra areas may now be reached for the reason that Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021 and the preventing stopped.

The EOC is led by the well being ministry and contains worldwide companies together with the World Well being Group and the United Nations’ kids’s company.

Afghanistan polio drive
A well being employee administers polio vaccine drops to a baby in Nangarhar province [File: Shafiullah Kakar/AFP]

The ministry mentioned the marketing campaign that began on Monday will cowl 31 of the nation’s 34 provinces and final 4 days. The vaccination was postponed within the remaining three provinces attributable to extraordinarily chilly climate, well being ministry spokesman Sharafat Zaman informed reporters.

“Thankfully, we would not have any optimistic instances this yr,” the spokesperson added.

Final yr, two instances of the wild sort of poliovirus have been detected in Afghanistan.

Whereas the Taliban has in current months banned many feminine NGO staff and stopped ladies from attending universities and most excessive faculties, EOC director Momin mentioned feminine vaccinators have been engaged on the marketing campaign.

He mentioned ladies have been essential to accessing kids who have been usually at house with their feminine caregivers who have been normally not snug interacting with male vaccinators.

In areas the place vaccination groups needed to journey longer distances, Momin mentioned authorities had required feminine workers to have a male chaperone. He mentioned that they had recruited and skilled male members of the family of the feminine vaccinators to hitch the groups’ vaccination efforts.

Some armed factions have focused vaccination efforts previously. In 2022, eight staff have been killed in assaults in northern Afghanistan.

“The assist of all Afghans, together with mother and father, neighborhood leaders, ethnic elders and spiritual leaders, is vital to eradicate polio and we wish them to participate within the battle,” the Taliban’s appearing well being minister Qalandar Ebad mentioned.

Vaccination campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan usually encounter difficulties attributable to conspiracy theories that polio vaccination causes infertility or that the vaccinators are getting used as spies.

Earlier than seizing energy over the whole nation in 2021, the Taliban had banned door-to-door vaccinations within the areas they managed. However the UN efficiently negotiated with the Taliban to renew this system,

Some well being specialists mentioned the function of the Taliban, whose said purpose is to impose their strict interpretation of Islamic regulation, may assist encourage the acceptance of vaccination in conservative areas across the area.

“Spiritual leaders’ function within the polio elimination drive in each Pakistan and Afghanistan is essential … the lively participation of the Taliban in polio campaigns is a really optimistic and main improvement,” mentioned Rana Jawad Asghar, an epidemiology knowledgeable and CEO of Pakistan-based consultancy International Well being Strategists and Implementers.

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