Afghanistan begins first polio vaccination drive under Taliban rule thumbnail

Afghanistan begins first polio vaccination drive under Taliban rule

Afghanistan on Monday launched a nationwide polio immunisation campaign — the first since the Taliban returned to power — aiming to protect about 10 million unvaccinated children from the crippling disease, a top official said.

The campaign aims to reach children
below five years old, including about four million in areas that were
previously inaccessible, Gula Khan Ayub, director for the programme told
AFP. 

Before they swept back to power in
August, the Taliban banned polio vaccination teams from parts of the
country. 

Taliban leaders had told communities
in areas they controlled that vaccines were a Western conspiracy aimed at
sterilising Muslim children.

“This time we hope to reach
areas that were inaccessible to vaccination campaigns in the past. It is still
difficult but we are hopeful,” Ayub said. 

“We do have full support of the
Taliban leadership this time. Female vaccinators are also allowed to work
side-by-side with their male colleagues.” 

An extra dose of Vitamin A will also
be given to the children during the campaign, Ayub said.

Afghanistan and neighbouring
Pakistan are the only countries where the poliovirus remains endemic.

The United Nations’ health and
children’s agencies said last month that they had been talking with the
Taliban’s leadership to address the towering health challenges in the country.

A second nationwide polio vaccination campaign had also been agreed upon and would be synchronised with a campaign planned in neighbouring Pakistan in December, the agencies said.

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