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UN pledges backing for Afghanistan as it marks National Immunization Day

UN pledges backing for Afghanistan as it marks National Immunization Day

SRSG Brahimi assists in immunizing of Afghan child
As Afghanistan marked its National Immunization Day, the senior United Nations official in the country today pledged the world body’s full support for efforts to improve the health of the Afghan people.

“We are at the service of the Government of Afghanistan,” said Lakhdar Brahimi, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative. “We are working under your leadership and under your guidance and trying to implement your programme.”

Today marked the second day of a three-day immunization campaign against polio in Afghanistan. In this round children aged 6 months to 5 years will also be administered Vitamin A drops, an important micronutrient to prevent night blindness. Special efforts have been made to give women vaccinators and supervisors a more prominent role in order to ease access to mothers.

The drive, which is targeting 6 million Afghan children under the age of five, aims to interrupt the spread of wild poliovirus by end of this year, which has so far seen seven cases of the disease in Afghanistan. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO) are providing resources and support to the effort.

Polio, a highly infectious disease, mainly affects children under three years of age, invading their nervous system. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis, while between 5 and 10 per cent of those infected with polio die when their breathing muscles are paralyzed. The international goal is to certify the world polio-free by the end of 2005.