Female vaccinators play key role in preventing polio in Herat

By Omar

With the help of UNICEF, more women and girls in Herat are now participating in polio vaccination campaigns. These women and girls are courageously fighting against polio to protect the future of Afghanistan from disability. [Omar/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- The participation of women and girls in polio vaccination campaigns in Herat has increased over the past two years with support from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Despite severe social restrictions, these women and girls have bravely joined the fight against the poliovirus to save the future generation of Afghanistan from permanent disability.

Kiana Rahimi, 25, leads a team of 60 vaccinators in Herat city, 56 of whom are female. The four male team members are mainly responsible for transporting vaccines.

Rahimi, who has been working on polio vaccination campaigns for five years, said the number of women and girls participating in polio vaccination campaigns has increased over the past two years.

A female health worker administers the polio vaccine to a child in Herat city on May 17. [Omar/Salaam Times]

A female health worker administers the polio vaccine to a child in Herat city on May 17. [Omar/Salaam Times]

"The role of women in polio vaccination campaigns is more effective than that of men and has yielded better results," she said.

"Women and girls can deliver health messages to families in a more effective way."

"Children under five are in their mothers' arms. Male vaccinators cannot properly vaccinate them when they are in their mothers' arms," she explained.

"Male vaccinators may not enter houses and provide information on polio to women."

If women do not actively participate in polio vaccination campaigns, most children will miss vaccination and the number of polio cases will increase, Rahimi added.

Muhammad Asef Kabir, deputy director of Herat's Department of Public Health, said 79% of vaccinators in Herat city are female.

"Female vaccinators are a strong arm of the health system in Herat who play a critical role in containing polio," he said.

"Because of family restrictions and the traditional nature of society, male vaccinators cannot properly vaccinate all children, but women offer the opportunity to enter homes and vaccinate children without any opposition from the families."

Polio vaccination campaigns in Herat are very successful, thanks to the robust and meaningful participation of girls and women, said Kabir.

"Female vaccinators establish a good rapport with women and mothers in households and encourage them to vaccinate children under five," he said. "Female vaccine administrators convey health messages to mothers in a better way."

Efforts to contain polio

After polio cases were registered in Nangarhar province this month, female vaccinators have been going door to door in Herat to ensure that no child is left out of the polio vaccination campaign.

While some families resist vaccinating their children from lack of awareness, Karima Haidari, 27, said she and other female vaccinators in Herat do not allow any child to remain unvaccinated.

"We visit houses two or three times in each round of the polio vaccination campaign and vaccinate every child under the age of five," she said. "Some days children are not home -- they have gone somewhere. We go back to that house in a day or two and vaccinate the children."

"Families are more comfortable with us than with male vaccinators," Haidari said.

"Male vaccinators may never enter houses to vaccinate children. Men do not allow their [wives] to open the door to a male vaccinator," she said.

In addition to vaccinating children, the women visit homes several times a month to educate families about the danger of polio and the importance of vaccinating children, Haidari said.

During the latest outbreak, no children in Herat have contracted polio, thanks to the active role of women in the polio vaccination campaigns, said Yagana Nabizada, 22, a vaccinator in Herat city.

"The lives of children are very important to us, and we do not allow any child to miss the polio vaccine," she said. "We go to houses and vaccinate children in each round of the polio vaccination campaign."

"After the registration of two cases of polio in Nangarhar, we have been trying even harder than before to ensure no child in Herat is paralysed," she said.

A third case was reported last Thursday (May 25).

"We vaccinate every child under the age of five so he [or she] is protected from the poliovirus," she added.

Supportive families

While some families need convincing to vaccinate their children, many welcome the extensive presence of women in the polio vaccination campaigns in Herat.

Kubra, 36, a mother of two children under the age of five, said she is happy that girls vaccinate her children.

"In the past, men would come to the door and vaccinate children," she said. "If my husband was home, he would take the kids and vaccinate them. But if not, then I did not have permission to go to male vaccinators and vaccinate my children."

"I am very comfortable with girls and women and allow them to enter my house and vaccinate my children," she said. "None of my children has missed vaccination in the two years since girls have been coming to my house."

Muzhda Danish, 32, a mother of a three-year-old girl, said she is happy women are fighting restrictions and actively fighting the poliovirus.

"In every round of the polio vaccination campaign, girls come to my house and vaccinate my daughter," she said. "They are very hardworking. They even come twice a day to ensure that no one is left unvaccinated."

"The main factor behind polio eradication in Herat is the stalwart participation of women in the polio vaccination campaigns," Danish said.

"This shows that if educated women and girls are given the opportunity in other areas, too, they can bring a positive change in society."

Do you like this article?

5 Comment

Comment Policy * Denotes required field 1500 / 1500

It is true that vaccinators save the lives of children in Afghanistan. These people should be admired. They made a lot of sacrifices during the era of republic. Paralysis or measles is a very dangerous disease that has no cure, but the main thing is that families vaccinate their children from time to time, otherwise they will suffer from this disease for the rest of their lives.


In general, vaccination is a vital issue for humans and especially for children. The government should join hands with the people in this regard, go from house to house and residence, and vaccinate the children so that we can get Afghanistan free from the deadly disease of paralysis. Paralysis, or polio, is a fatal disease. If God forbid, a minor stroke of polio infects a youngster, then there is no cure for it except to suffer and cry for the rest of your life; there is no other way. The good thing is that we should voluntarily take all our children to nearby hospitals, vaccinate them, and follow the doctors' recommendations in this regard.


A woman is a big part of the society. A woman is a sister; a woman is a mother; a woman is a wife; a woman is a daughter; and in general, the position of women is very high, but if we value them. It is a different matter in Afghan society that women are looked down upon. Otherwise, how they are treated at the country's level is not what the Taliban government is doing. The way the Taliban treat the women is a sad reality. It should not be like that. The Taliban, like other people, know very well that a society cannot make progress without women, and they are needed in every field. Still, none of the Afghans know that their rights have been taken away, and neither do many high-ranking Taliban officials. The so-called leader Mullah Hebatullah issued a decree saying that women should neither study nor go to work. God knows what is involved in this work. The Taliban's treatment of women and girls should be called a crime against humanity. The Taliban regime's treatment of women and girls should be investigated as crimes against humanity and gender discrimination according to international law. In addition to violating the rights of women and girls by the Taliban, their forced treatment, imprisonment, abduction, and other wrongful treatment done to them in the last two years are crimes against humanity and sexual abuse. If some international institutions have the authority, our request is to prosecute those members of the Taliban movement who are suspected of committing crimes base


Female vaccinators can easily enter houses to check how many children are in the house, and the ladies of the houses can also see them. Female vaccinators bravely go to homes in Afghanistan to save the children from the polio virus. Most men do not allow their wives to take their children to male vaccinators for vaccination. This is despite the fact that many times men are not at home to take their children for vaccination. Because of this, female vaccinators play an essential role in polio prevention.


A woman has always been regarded as a blessed creature in divine religions, whether a wife, a mother, a daughter, or a sister. Islam, the last complementary religion of the heavenly religions, does not have any rule against women's natural structure. Wherever oppression occurs, it is cultural oppression, not an Islamic government. Even in the period of distortion of heavenly religions, whether it was Judaism or Christianity, the reason for women's deprivation and oppression was the artificial rules and personal mood of priests, popes, and the church, not the fundamental laws of God's religion! A woman has the right to choose a husband; a woman has the right to her husband in all matters of life, maintenance, clothing, and all the necessities of life. No woman can marry a man by force, neither to herself nor another man nor can he deprive her of life. In the Islamic judicial system, women and men are punished equally for any crime and have the right to claim and defend themselves equally. On the other hand, religious orders about women are generally by human nature. For example, if a man naturally does not want his wife to work in an office with strangers or alien people, this violates men's rights and takes advantage of men's compulsion. In the same way, a woman by nature cannot tolerate her husband working together with foreign women. So this is the destruction of women's rights; the same is true of the religious order.