Afghanistan polio: UN plans nationwide vaccine campaign

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Image source, AFP

Image caption, The campaign aims to reach all children in the country

The UN has announced a nationwide polio immunisation campaign in Afghanistan for the first time in many years.

Children's agency Unicef said they had the full support of the Taliban for the project due to begin in early November.

The Taliban will also allow female staff on the campaign and provide security to the teams, the agency said.

In the past, the militant group have opposed vaccination, falsely claiming it was a Western conspiracy to sterilise Muslims.

Unicef said the house-to-house immunisation campaign beginning on 8 November would aim to reach nearly 10 million Afghan children under the age of five.

The campaign would be the first in over three years to reach all children in Afghanistan, including more than 3.3 million children in some parts of the country who have previously remained inaccessible to vaccination campaigns, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef said in a statement.

"This decision will allow us to make a giant stride in the efforts to eradicate polio. To eliminate polio completely, every child in every household across Afghanistan must be vaccinated," Hervé Ludovic de Lys, Unicef representative in Afghanistan, said.

Media caption, Polio campaigners in Pakistan battle misinformation and distrust (2020 report)

The UN said it had also agreed to a second polio vaccination campaign co-ordinating with a similar project being planned in neighbouring Pakistan.

Polio usually affects children under five, sometimes leading to irreversible paralysis. Death can occur when breathing muscles are affected.

There is no cure, but the polio vaccine protects children for life.

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  • Published25 September 2020

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