With UN support, Afghanistan kicks off anti-polio drive

15 December 2002

In a bid to eradicate polio from Afghanistan, United Nations agencies today teamed up with the country's health officials to launch a new round of national immunization days.

With the support of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the drive aims to reach some 5.9 million children. "Teams of vaccinators will go from village to village, house to house, to ensure that all children each receive the two drops of the oral polio vaccine, regardless of prior immunization status or geographical location," UNICEF spokesman Edward Carwadine told reporters in Kabul.

During the three-day campaign, children aged 6 months to 5 years will also be administered drops of vitamin A – an important micro-nutrient to prevent night blindness and help the body fight disease and infection.

"As in previous rounds, emphasis will be placed on enabling women vaccinators and supervisors to play prominent roles in easing access to mothers," Mr. Carwadine said.

While the influx of returning refugees and other challenges make it difficult to put a firm date for polio interruption in Afghanistan, the country has made significant strides in recent years toward the globally set objective of stopping transmission there by 2002-2003, according to UNICEF. So far this year, there have been eight reported cases compared to 27 two years ago.

In another development, today marked the start of the First National Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Afghanistan. The UNICEF-supported event brings together professionals in Kabul to help implement a new strategic approach to maternal health and safe motherhood in the country, which has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world, with an estimated 1,600 deaths per 100,000 live births.

 

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