Taliban backs Afghan polio vaccine campaign

A polio vaccination campaign kicked off in Afghanistan on Monday (November 8), the first in three years.

The campaign, run by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, aims to reach over 3 million children.

The WHO said it had received Taliban backing, which would allow teams to reach children in previously inaccessible parts of the country.

But hurdles remain - trained staff are in short supply. Polio vaccinator Hassibullah Qaderi says resistance from families is another challenge.

“We don't receive the polio medicines on time and most of the families refuse to vaccinate their kids because there are some rumors that this polio vaccine may harm their children. These are the issues we are facing.”

Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the last countries in the world with endemic polio, an incurable and highly infectious disease transmitted through sewage. It can cause crippling paralysis in young children.

Polio has been almost eradicated globally through a decades-long inoculation drive. But insecurity, inaccessible terrain, mass displacement, and suspicion of outside interference have hampered mass vaccination in both countries.

Several polio workers were killed by gunmen in eastern Afghanistan this year, though it was not clear who was behind the attacks.

According to WHO figures compiled before the collapse of the Western-backed government in August, there was one reported case of wild poliovirus type 1 in Afghanistan in 2021, compared with 56 in 2020.

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