Concerns rise after fresh polio cases emerge in Afghanistan

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Jun 15, 2020, 03.42 PM(IST)

Image for representation. Photograph:( DNA )

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Although the overall cases this year, 14, were less compared to 26 that were reported last year, however, the areas where polio is spreading remain a concern

The threat of coronavirus is not the only concern for Afghanistan as the country recently detected polio in regions which were earlier declared free of this life-threatening disease. 

The provinces of Balkh, Herat and Badakhshan have reported one case each of polio. 

Also read | Polio immunisation suspended amid coronavirus pandemic

Jan Rasekh, a spokesperson of Afghanistan's polio eradication programme, said that these three provinces have not reported a single case for up to five years.

Also read | Pakistan faces fresh polio cases amid coronavirus outbreak

Although the overall cases this year, 14, were less compared to 26 that were reported last year, however, the areas where polio is spreading remain a concern. 

"We had worked hard for years and cornered polio to a limited geography," Rasekh said, reported AFP. 

"The coronavirus has helped polio spread beyond its endemic region of south and southeast, and now threatens people across the country."

The UN children's agency UNICEF last month suspended polio eradication drives in dozens of nations, while measles vaccination campaigns were also put on hold in 27 countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two nations remaining in the world where polio virus is still not eradicated.

However, the polio immunisation drive in Afghanistan was halted to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

Rasekh said that only two immunisation drive could take place in country, which usually conducts up to 10 such drives each year. 

He hopes that such campaigns would be resumed by July. 

Taliban also acts as a hurdle, as Rasekh adds that they don't allow house-to-house campaigns in the areas under them. 

Also, Taliban and religious organisations see vaccines as a Western conspiracy to sterile Muslim children and believe immunisation drives are used to spy on militant activities.