The Taliban administration in Afghanistan has launched the annual polio inoculation campaign aimed at reaching more than nine million children under the age of five, the health ministry said.
Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan are the last countries with endemic polio, an incurable and highly infectious disease that can cause crippling paralysis – and even death – in young children.
Director of Afghanistan’s National Emergency Operation Center, EOC, for Polio Eradication, Nek Wali Shah Momin, said many more areas could now be reached since the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021 and the fighting stopped.
The EOC is led by the health ministry and includes international agencies including the World Health Organization and the United Nations’ children’s agency.
The ministry said the campaign that started on Monday will cover 31 of the country’s 34 provinces and last four days. Health ministry spokesman, Sharafat Zaman , disclosed that the vaccination was postponed in the remaining three provinces due to extremely cold weather.
“Fortunately, we do not have any positive cases this year,” the spokesman added.
While the Taliban has in recent months banned many female NGO workers and stopped women from attending universities and most high schools, EOC director Momin, said female vaccinators were working on the campaign.
Polio has been virtually eliminated globally through a decades-long inoculation drive. But insecurity, inaccessible terrain, mass displacement and suspicion of outside interference have hampered mass vaccination in Afghanistan and some areas of Pakistan.