Afghanistan launches year’s first polio vaccination drive

Nationwide campaign to vaccinate nearly 10 million children under the age of five has begun, say officials.

An Afghan girl is vaccinated during polio eradication campaign in Kabul [File: Mariam Zuhaib/AP]

Afghanistan has launched a nationwide campaign to administer the polio vaccine to nearly 10 million children under the age of five, the nation’s Public Health Ministry announced.

Some 65,000 health workers will implement the campaign over a five-day period, a public relations officer for the anti-polio campaign, Mir Jan Rasikh, told DPA news agency on Monday.

Last year, 3.4 million children were deprived of the vaccine across the war-torn country. As a result, at least 56 Afghan children contracted the crippling disease, according to officials.

The Taliban armed group does not allow healthcare workers in areas under their control to carry out door-to-door campaigns.

The group’s fighters claim that in the past, the campaign had been used to gather intelligence in some provinces.

On Sunday, Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar met with officials from the World Health Organization and UNICEF for South Asia in Qatar where they discussed the polio vaccination and other communicable diseases, the group announced.

It was not clear if the Taliban fighters had agreed to allow a door-to-door campaign in the areas under their control.

Officials warn that lack of access would deprive around 3 million children of the vaccine again.

The deadly virus has been eradicated from the rest of the world but is still prevalent in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has launched a similar drive.

Source: DPA