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Editorial: The crusade against polio will prevail

Government on Monday rolled out campaign to vaccinate 6.4 million children against polio. Vaccination teams will visit 6.4 million children under the age of five in 27 high-risk provinces, mainly in Kandahar and Nangarhar. This follows several new cases in both regions. Last week, a 14-month-old boy from Loyawala was confirmed to have polio and will be permanently paralyzed. This is the 14th case in Afghanistan, and the 9th case in the southern region. In Afghanistan, the efforts for polio eradication have been intensified more than ever. The Ministry of Public Health and its international health partners are committed to ending this disease — but what is needed is the solid commitment and necessary cooperation of the community. Polio remains endemic in three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Until poliovirus transmission is interrupted in these countries, all countries remain at risk of importation of polio, especially vulnerable countries with weak public health and immunization services and travel or trade links to endemic countries. Still these countries have its best – and perhaps last – chance to stop polio forever. There is a historic, one-time only opportunity to stop transmission of poliovirus. If the polio-affected countries seize this opportunity and acts immediately, no child will ever again know the crippling effects of this devastating disease. In Afghanistan tremendous progress has been made in the fight against polio. But it is not enough we need more to do to eradicate the disease. When epidemic spread like wildfire in 2002, India’s success in reducing poliovirus transmission in 2003 demonstrates that with high quality vaccination campaigns, where every child is immunized with multiple doses, polio can be beaten. It is time for Afghanistan and the two remaining countries, to do everything under their capacity to eliminate polio. People’s cooperation is a must because polio staffers would not be able to reach every child with lifesaving polio vaccine. It is also responsibility of the parents, religious scholars, tribal elders, and civil society activists to make sure no child to miss from vaccine. Two drops of polio are a must to each child to protect them against this permanent paralyzing disease. At the same time, we have global support as well for polio eradication, thus efforts must be doubled.

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