UN scheme to immunize 6 million Afghan children against polio begins

Travelling on foot, horseback or motorcycle, some 40,000 vaccinators – roughly one-third of these are women – will fan out across Afghanistan’s 34 provinces over the next three days as they try to immunize every child under the age of five. The vaccinators have been trained by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), which have set up the immunization scheme in conjunction with Afghan health authorities, to administer the oral vaccine and to collect data. Afghanistan remains one of just six nations in the world where polio is still classified as endemic, although the number of new cases has dropped to only three so far this year from 27 in 2000. There has not been a new case since May, the longest period in the country’s recent history. By the end of next year, through a combination of routine immunization services and special drives such as the one this week, Afghanistan hopes to have stopped all polio transmission. In a statement, UNICEF added it has worked closely with religious and community leaders across Afghanistan to ensure that families understand the importance of vaccinating against polio.

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