Despite conflict, UN agencies launch anti-polio campaign for Afghan children

Despite conflict, UN agencies launch anti-polio campaign for Afghan children

United Nations organizations and their partners have launched a three-day campaign to immunize Afghan children against the crippling polio virus, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) announced today.

UNICEF said that the region of Afghanistan and Pakistan accounted for 30.8 per cent - or 77 of the world's 250 total polio cases in 2001, making the region a priority for the international community within its global Polio Eradication Initiative.

During National Immunization Days, also known as "NIDs," UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International and other organizations support national and local authorities in the global initiative of polio eradication and strengthening immunization programmes for children in the region, including Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Iran.

During the NID, doses of oral polio vaccines are given to all children under five years of age, in as short period of time as possible (preferably 1-2 days), regardless of their immunization status. NIDs are normally conducted as two rounds of mass immunization, the second round occurring approximately four to six weeks after the first.

For Afghan children, UNICEF will follow the first round of polio vaccinations that reached 5 million children in September by concentrating from 6 to 8 November on the border areas of neighbouring countries and certain cities inside Afghanistan - Mazar-I-Sharif, Faisabad, Herat, Kabul, Kandahar, and Jalalabad.

As for reaching children in Taliban-controlled areas, "neither WHO nor UNICEF have control over the Taliban," UNICEF said. "From all indications, the Minister of Health and the local health authorities for the Taliban-controlled areas intend to go ahead with the NIDs."