1.3 Million Afghan Children May Lose Protection from Polio Immunization
Insurgent bans may prevent hundreds of thousands of children in Afghanistan from receiving the polio immunization.
A new round of a five-day polio immunization campaign was launched to combat the high transmission season for polio last week. Although the campaign estimates to allow nearly 6.4 million children under the age of five to receive the vaccine, vulnerable children are still at risk. Unfortunately, most of these children live in areas where Taliban insurgents and Islamic State militants are active.
Ferozuddin Feroz, Afghan Minister of Public Health, commented:
“Our primary reports show, that in this round of the campaign, around 1,347,000 children could be deprived from polio vaccine in Helmand, Uruzgan, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Kunar and Kunduz provinces, where the anti-government elements are not supporting the implementation of [the] campaign.”
Nine polio cases have been reported by Afghan health authorities this year in the country. It is the highest number of wild polio cases in the world. Pakistan officials also reported three polio cases last year.
A three-year-old child, who is the victim of the latest case, was reported to have polio symptoms last week in the Mad-e-Ali district of Southern Kandahar province.
The boy could not get vaccinated during the last campaigns in May. Unfortunately, officials mention that the boy was only one of over 900,000 children, living in Kandahar and regions surrounding Helmand and Uruzgan provinces. They were not able to receive vaccination because of insurgent bans on anti-polio efforts in Afghan territory.
Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two remaining polio-endemic countries in the world.
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Image credit: UNICEF