Afghan polio vaccination campaign gains public support

By Ziar

An Afghan health worker marks a child's finger after polio vaccination in Ghazni Province April 17. [Zakeria Hashimi/AFP]

An Afghan health worker marks a child's finger after polio vaccination in Ghazni Province April 17. [Zakeria Hashimi/AFP]

KABUL -- More than 9.9 million Afghan children under the age of five were vaccinated against polio during a three-day campaign in August, according to the Ministry of Public Health.

The vaccination campaign was successfully completed in all 34 provinces August 12-14.

"About 10 million Afghan children were successfully vaccinated," Waheed Majroh, a ministry spokesman, told Salaam Times. "We are hoping to eradicate polio from Afghanistan over the next three years by launching such campaigns."

Afghanistan is one of three countries where polio is endemic, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The other two are Pakistan and Nigeria.

"During administration of the the polio vaccines, all eligible children also received vitamin A to strengthen their bodies," Majroh said, adding that the WHO is helping Afghanistan carry out the polio vaccination campaign.

The major problem national and international health workers face in Afghanistan is security, he said. However, with the polio vaccination campaign, the ministry sought the help of elders in remote areas, an action that proved to be "very useful" in implementing the campaign.

Polio incidence declines

This year, a total of six polio cases have been recorded in Kandahar, Zabul and Helmand provinces, according to public health statistics.

"This shows a decline when compared to the past five years," Majroh said, adding that "with the help of God, it will be reduced to zero."

Afghanistan had 13 polio cases in 2016.

Afghans are responding positively to the ministry's polio eradication efforts.

"We will not spare any effort to co-operate with the vaccination crews in our areas," said Mawludin, 47, a resident of Bahzati village in Shakardara District, Kabul Province.

"We thank them for their work, and we provide them with food and tea," he told Salaam Times August 14, the day polio vaccination teams came to his village. "We want them to be encouraged and feel safe, so they can do their job properly."

"We don't want any of our children to remain unvaccinated," he said.

Khani, 38, a farmer in Bahzati village and father of six, said his three children under the age of five all received the vaccine.

"I have a good feeling, because doctors tell us to vaccinate our children so they can be saved from various diseases," he told Salaam Times. "I support this action."

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