Despite an injection of millions of dollars into the health sector, Afghanistan still lags behind in stamping out the polio virus – which has been eradicated across the globe except in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Health officials on Wednesday reported that no polio case has been reported in Africa for a year, putting Nigeria on course for being dropped from the list of polio-endemic countries.
If Nigeria is declared free of polio, Afghanistan and Pakistan will then be the only countries in the world that still record polio cases.
Reaching the milestone, for Nigeria, is a testament to the persistence, deep pockets and adaptability of the eradication initiative, which is led by the W.H.O., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations Fund for Children, Rotary International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations Foundation.
According to UN statistics, 34 new cases have been recorded this year, 28 in Pakistan and 6 in Afghanistan.
The Afghan health officials, however, blame the issue on a lack of security and the negligence of families in vaccinating their children against the virus.
“One of the main reasons is that we have a long and open border with Pakistan that saw a large number of cases last year, and the families that move through the border with their children spread the virus,” said Wahidullah Mayar, spokesman of the Ministry of Public Health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has meanwhile called on Afghanistan and Pakistan to accelerate their anti-polio drive.
Recent polio vaccination drives have however been hampered by security issues in both countries.
A number of vaccinators have been shot dead in Pakistan and Afghanistan, endangering the lives of thousands of children.
The global campaign to eradicate the disease began in 1988 when an estimated 350,000 polio cases were reported in 125 countries.