Eight million children vaccinated against polio in Afghanistan

23 Sep 2012

Eight million children vaccinated against polio in Afghanistan

KABUL - Around 8 million children under five years of age were administered anti-polio drops during a three-day nationwide campaign in Afghanistan last week.

The campaign started on 16 September 2012 and continued for three days in which 55,000 service providers including 45000 volunteers went door-to-door and administered anti-polio vaccines to the children.

“Special attention was given to the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand for reported majority cases of polio,” said Dr. Arshad Quddus, a Medical Officer at WHO Afghanistan. WHO is one of two UN agencies that supported the anti-polio campaign led by the Ministry of Public Health.

Afghanistan still remains one of three polio-endemic countries, together with Pakistan and Nigeria, in the world. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is hosting a high-level event in New York next week to highlight the threat posed by polio.

According to Suraya Dalil, the Minister for Public Health, 17 cases of polio were reported in Afghanistan this year.

“We had eight cases in Helmand, four cases in Kandahar, three in Kunar and one case each in Paktiya and Farah provinces,” said Dr. Dalil at the launching ceremony of nationwide anti-polio campaign.

The Minister said although the number of cases is less than the last year when 34 cases of polio were reported from all over the country, however, it is still a great threat to the Afghan children.

The anti-polio campaign was also synchronized with the neighbouring country of Pakistan given the huge number of cross-border movement between the two countries.

Anti-polio vaccines were administered to the travelling children at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border points with the aim to cover every child in the country.

In Afghanistan, during the three-day anti-polio campaign, the children from two to five years of age were also given deworming tablets.

“Worm infestation is one of the identified health issues in Afghanistan, which affect the nutritional status of children. Anti-polio campaign is one of the best means to deliver deworming tablets house-to-house and reduces the burden of worm infestation,” said Dr. Quddus.

The Afghan Ministry of Public Health aims to eradicate polio from the country in the nearest future; however it faces some challenges in implementing the campaigns.

“We are not only facing the challenge of insecurity but management of the campaigns, transportation of the vaccines to remote areas of the country and migrations are some other key challenges,” said Dr. Dalil.