UN agencies make house calls to vaccinate Afghan newborns

UN agencies make house calls to vaccinate Afghan newborns

Joining forces with the Afghan Government, two United Nations agencies are conducting their final round of house calls to vaccinate newborns and their mothers against tetanus in the capital, Kabul.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are also participating in campaigns to immunize children between the ages of 59 months and six years in schools, mosques and other locations. This provides an opportunity for children who rarely visit clinics to receive free vaccinations in community centres.

“We want all parents to take part in this valuable vaccination campaign,” said WHO’s Riyad Musa. “We are here to serve the families of our nation’s capital, to ensure the future health of our children, and therefore the future of Afghanistan.”

Approximately 3,500 trained vaccinators and volunteers are involved in the campaign, which will continue to furnish vaccinations free of charge at local health clinics beyond this week.

Neonatal tetanus can be fatal, and can be contracted if the birth process or the baby’s cord comes into contact with dirt. However, provided the mother has received at least two tetanus vaccinations before or during her pregnancy, her child will not contract it.

While people of any age who have not been immunized can contract measles, young children are most at risk. Deaths from measles in Afghanistan have been slashed 90 per cent through two nationwide campaigns from 2001 to 2003 which were supported by WHO, UNICEF and their partners.

In a related development, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said that in spite of obstacles posed by growing insecurity in the south and east of the country, it continues to operate in almost all parts of the war-torn country.

Afghanistan poses extreme challenges for WFP, with the effects of two decades of war and unrest being exacerbated by natural disasters, such as floods, harsh winters and severe droughts.

In a press release, WFP noted that is has distributed 10,000 metric tons of food for 350,000 people in Kandahar. This year, it plans to provide an additional 20,000 tons to feed 600,000 people, with assistance from the Canadian International Development, the agency’s largest donor in Kandahar.