The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) are set to initiate a joint polio vaccination campaign across Afghanistan in less than two weeks.
Up to nine million Afghan children under the age of five are expected to receive polio drops during the campaign.
But continued threats and insurgency appeared to have undermined the vaccination process in some volatile regions of the country, an issue which has increased the number of polio cases among Afghan children in certain regions.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only nations on earth where polio has not been eliminated.
The polio campaign will start from August 29 and will continue for two days across the country.
“The difference between this round of campaign and rest of the campaigns is that this time it covers the whole country and this time besides polio drops, other vitamins will be given to children,” said Sayed Kamal Shah, a UNICEF official in Afghanistan.
Based on the statistics of the ministry of pubic health, currently the polio vaccination programs are facing issues in at least 96 districts of the country amid security threats.
Districts and provinces where the polio vaccination campaign is under threat:
Helmand: Sangeen, Nahre Saraj, Nad Ali, Lashkar Gah, Reg, Kajaki, Musa Qala, Nawra, Nawzad, Garmsir, Washir districts
Kandahar: Shahwali Kot, Kandahar city, Maiwand, Panjwayee, Zherai, Spin Boldak, Khak Rez, Arghandab, Arghistan, Ghorak, Daman, Mianshin, Shorabak districts
Nangarhar: Achin, Laalpor, Maiwand Dara, Batikot, Behsud, Shinwar, Sherzad, Jalalabad City, Deh Bala, Kot and Surkhrod districts
Farah: Bala Bolok, Bakwa, Khak Safed, Gulistan, Qaisar districts
Zabul: Qalat, Arghandab, Nawbahar, Shah Joy districts
It is said that the rate of threats are a little bit lower in Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Herat, Nimroz, Oruzgan, Laghman, Nuristan, Ghor, Parwan, Kapisa, Baghlan, Kunduz and Ghazni provinces.
“Insecurity is the biggest problem including the issue of a lack of government control on some areas and districts which are not under the control of the government,” said Maiwand Ahmadzai, head of polio department of health ministry.
The role of religious scholars remains significant in providing awareness about polio in Afghanistan.
“The ministry of hajj and religious affairs has directed all mosques across the country to dedicate the Friday congregation speech for polio vaccination campaign,” said deputy minister of hajj and religious affairs Daiul Haq Abid.
In 2016, six cases of polio were recorded in three provinces of Afghanistan that includes four cases in Kunar and two cases in Kabul.
The ministry of public health has said that over the past six months no polio vaccination campaign was conducted in Kunduz.
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