Afghanistan: UN joins campaign to immunize 6 million children against polio
As polio continues to be the leading cause of disability in Afghanistan, two United Nations agencies have joined the national government’s nation-wide campaign to immunize more than 6 million children in three days.
The Afghani Ministry of Health, with support from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), will tomorrow kick off the first round of National Immunization Days (NIDs) for this year.
“For too many years, the world has seen my country struggle with a difficult history, but I am proud to say that through this campaign, we are on the verge of making history that will benefit future generations,” Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai said in a statement marking the start of the campaign. “I hope that all communities across Afghanistan will play their part, not least in ensuring that vaccinators can undertake their work safely and without any form of hindrance.”
UNICEF said teams of vaccinators will go from house to house to ensure that all children five years and under receive two drops of the Oral Polio Vaccine, regardless of prior immunization status or geographical location. The agency has advised families to keep all eligible children at home from the 15 to 17 of April so that volunteers can reach them.
This week's campaign is particularly critical as April to September is considered the peak season for polio transmission, UNICEF said. Afghanistan is one of the last ten countries in the world where polio remains endemic and is also among the top five priority countries for global eradication.
UNICEF and WHO will provide technical assistance, vaccines, and vaccine storage equipment as well as support for the transportation of monitors and the payment of incentives for the vaccinators. More than 30,000 vaccinators, supervisors and other volunteers will also be in the field.