Afghanistan’s Taliban-run ministry of health announced on Sunday the launch of a four-day nationwide polio vaccination campaign aimed at vaccinating children under 5 years of age.
For the past three years, before taking control of Afghanistan, the Taliban have prohibited UN-organized vaccination teams from conducting door-to-door vaccination campaigns in parts of the country under their control. The group clearly suspected that the team members might be spies of the previous government or the West.
Due to the ban and ongoing fighting, some 3.3 million children have not been vaccinated in the past three years.
“There is no doubt that polio is a disease that, if left untreated, will either kill our children or cause them permanent disability, so in this case the only way is to vaccinate,” said Dr. Kalandar Ebad, acting minister of health for the movement. Taliban “.
Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the only countries in the world where polio remains endemic and can cause partial paralysis in children. Since 2010, the country has run regular vaccination campaigns, during which workers go from door to door to vaccinate children. Most of the workers are women as they can get better access to mothers and children.
Ebad said the four-day campaign will start on Monday and run across the country. The estimated target group is 10 million children under 5 years of age in Afghanistan, including more than 3.3 million children who could not be reached since 2018.
“Vaccination [children] Having less than five years in a country during National Immunization Days is a gigantic task. The ministry of health alone cannot cope with this task successfully, so we need the support of all departments that are backed up, ”said Nek Wali Shah Momin, a health ministry official in the polio eradication department.
The Taliban’s stated support for the campaign appears to have been aimed at showing the international community that they are willing to work with international agencies. A long-standing militant rebel force is seeking global recognition for its new government and opening the door for international assistance to save a crumbling economy.
The World Health Organization and UN Children’s Agency UNICEF, in a joint statement last month, said they welcome the Taliban leadership’s decision to resume home polio vaccination across the country.
In recent years, large areas of the country have been inaccessible for vaccination. In particular, the Taliban ban was in force in some parts of the south. Elsewhere, door-to-door campaigns were not possible due to fighting between the government and insurgents, or fears of kidnapping or a roadside bomb. In some places, tough clerics have spoken out against the vaccinations, calling them un-Islamic or claiming they were part of a Western conspiracy.