'A joint commitment': WHO, UNICEF launch polio vaccine campaign in Afghanistan

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Nov 08, 2021, 03:23 PM(IST)

Polio vaccine campaign in Afghanistan Photograph:( Reuters )

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As per WHO, the campaign is aimed at reaching over 3 million children and has received Taliban backing. It would allow teams to reach children in areas which were inaccessible earlier

In what is being termed as the first nationwide campaign in three years, the World Health Organization and the United Nations children's agency have started a polio vaccination campaign in Afghanistan in an attempt to fight the disease. 

As per WHO, the campaign is aimed at reaching over 3 million children and has received Taliban backing. It would allow teams to reach children in areas which were inaccessible earlier. According to WHO figures compiled before the Taliban took over Afghanistan, there was one reported case of the one wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) in Afghanistan in 2021, compared with 56 in 2020.

Ahmed Al Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, in a statement said, "The urgency with which the Taliban leadership wants the polio campaign to proceed demonstrates a joint commitment to maintain the health system and restart essential immunisations to avert further outbreaks of preventable diseases." 

National Emergency Operations Coordinator for the polio programme at Afghanistan's health ministry, Naikwali Shah Momim has highlighted that more training is needed for teams in remote areas. Therefore, the programme would initially start in places such as Kabul.

Afghanistan is one of the last countries in the world with endemic polio. The disease has been virtually eliminated globally through a decades-long inoculation drive. 

Several polio workers were killed by gunmen in eastern Afghanistan this year. However, it is not yet clear who was behind the attacks.

Meanwhile, the nation has been struggling to battle poverty as people fear the approach of winter. Various financial institutions suspended their engagement with the country until there was clarity within the international community on the recognition of the government led by the Taliban.

Currently, banks are running out of money, civil servants have not been paid and food prices have surged. 

The IMF said that Afghanistan's economy was set to contract up to 30 per cent this year. "Afghanistan is in need of revival on all fronts, and development is the top priority," said Wang.

(With inputs from agencies)

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