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WHO polio vaccination programme in Afghanistan receives Taliban support

WHO polio vaccination programme in Afghanistan receives Taliban support

An infant receiving a dose of the polio vaccine in Jalalabad, Afghanistan (Credit: UNICEF, 2020)

Afghanistan will witness a mass door-to-door polio vaccination campaign aimed at 3 million children after the Taliban government gave permission for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF to conduct the polio eradication drive, lending its support to the programme which can now access children who were previously inaccessible.

The Taliban had forbidden polio vaccination programmes from taking place before and several vaccine health workers have been shot dead in remote parts of the country. The November vaccination drive has been hailed by WHO and UNICEF as an important step to eradicate polio, which stubbornly clings to certain pockets in the country despite being globally eliminated.

Polio vaccination drives had started in July of 2020 after a long break due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but were soon interrupted by the crisis that saw the toppling of the US-backed Afghanistan government and the rise of the new Taliban government.

"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 immunizations to avert further outbreaks of preventable diseases," said Ahmed Al Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, in a statement. However, Momim said that more training was needed for teams in remote areas, so the programme would initially start in places such as Kabul.

The WHO had reported prevalence of Wild Poliovirus Type 1 in Afghanistan this year, with one reported case in 2021 and 56 in 2020. Afghanistan and Pakistan are one of the last places in the world which harbour polio outbreaks, due to hindrance and opposition to vaccination campaigns.

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TAGS:WHOUNICEFAfghanistanTalibanVaccinationswild poliovirusAfghan warAfghan crisis
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