Afghanistan to restart polio vaccination program with Taliban support

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Afghanistan to restart polio vaccination program with Taliban support


Afghanistan will resume polio vaccinations nationwide after more than three years, as the new Taliban government has agreed to help the campaign and allow women to participate as frontline workers, said. Monday the UN.

The World Health Organization and Unicef ​​said the vaccination campaign would begin on Nov. 8 with Taliban support.

“WHO and Unicef ​​welcome the decision of the Taliban leaders to support the resumption of vaccination against polio at home throughout Afghanistan,” said the UN statement.

“Taliban leaders have expressed their commitment to the inclusion of frontline women workers. “

The announcement is a turnaround from the position of the Islamists during the two decades of insurgency against the previous government backed by the United States. Past vaccination campaigns have been hampered in areas controlled by the Islamic State or the Taliban, with frontline workers killed. The pandemic also caused the jabs to be suspended.

“After consultation with the UN, the government will launch the polio vaccination campaign with female and male workers and we will ensure the safety of all polio vaccination team workers across the country,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told The Guardian.

Over the past three years, there has been a significant increase in polio cases, and the effort to eradicate the disease in Afghanistan is a growing challenge.

Attempts have also been made by clerics and tribal elders to debunk the myths surrounding polio vaccines prevalent among the Taliban and ISIS.

In the past, polio vaccination campaigns have been viewed with suspicion, accused by some of being used by outsiders to spy on insurgents or to undermine Islamic traditions. Some tribal leaders have spread the idea that the vaccine causes infertility and that polio workers have been targets of violence in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are the last two countries in the world to have cases of poliovirus in children, which can lead to paralysis or even death. According to Unicef, 56 new cases of poliovirus were reported in Afghanistan last year, the highest number since 2011.

“This decision will allow us to take a giant step forward in efforts to eradicate polio,” declared Hervé Ludovic De Lys, UNICEF representative in Afghanistan.

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