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Anti-polio drive to cover 7.6m children

By Akhtar M. Nikzad-KABUL: Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) kicked off the first round of anti-polio campaign. The drive will continue for three days in 28 provinces of the country.

Minister of Public Health, Ferozuddin Feroz, inaugurated the vaccination drive on Sunday by administering oral polio vaccine to children at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health.

Ferozuddin Feroz said the nationwide polio immunization campaign would cover around 7.6 million children. Nearly, 6.6 million children will take Vitamin-A drops.

The minister pointed out that the campaign would not cover six province including Bamyan, Daikundi, Ghor, Panjshir, Herat and Badghis as well as 16 districts. As many as 1,429,366 children under the ages of five would not receive polio vaccine in these areas.

He further said that around 56,851 volunteers would carry out the vaccination campaign in the country. The drive will cost $3.6 million, provided by the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, USAID and Rotary International.

In 2014, at least 28 polio cases were reported. In Kandahar 13 polio cases, in Nangarhar three cases, two each in Laghman, Helmand and Paktika, one each in Uruzgan, Khost, Farah, Ghazni, and Zabul. This year one case was reported in Helmand province.

He said that despite many efforts to eradicate different kind of preventable diseases; still Afghanistan is one of the countries in the world which has high rate of child mortality and where polio remained as great treat.

“During three days our volunteers will knock every door to vaccinate the children under five years of age [59 months] and Vitamin-A will be given to kids age between six and 59 months,” he said.

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a highly contagious viral infection that can lead to paralysis, breathing problems, or even death. This disease is not treatable and it can permeate village by village even from one country to another country. Polio can also influence every age but mostly children are vulnerable due to their low immunity.

Despite global efforts to eradicate polio, still Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria suffering seriously from threats of this fatal virus.

The minister said the National Emergency Action Plan is provided to facilitate the access rate or healthcare in the remote districts where healthcare service is weak. As well as permanent polio team and district EPI management teams would be established in southern provinces.

Representative of the WHO, Richard Peeperkorn, said that 2015 is an important year in terms of polio eradication efforts globally. “The key to stop the transmission of polio in Afghanistan is to improve the quality of polio vaccination campaigns and to reduce the missed children by reaching out to every child living in every corner of the country,” he said.

He pointed out that this year almost nine million children under five years of age in the entire country would be covered through the immunization campaign. He said the program would raise the immunity level of children.

“The WHO in cooperation and collaboration with our sister agency UNICEF are fully committed and prepared to support the Ministry of Public Health and communities to achieve the goals of polio eradication and strengthen routine immunization,” he said.

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