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Fighting polio: India to share expertise with Afghanistan

AT-KABUL: The Afghan government has accepted an offer by the Indian government to use its expertise in fighting polio in the country, said media reports on Monday.

The reports said that this offer has been rejected by Pakistan which also remains as a polio-endemic country.

The proposal by the Health and Family Welfare Ministry of India was forwarded through the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to Afghan Foreign Ministry, offering to share best practices that have helped India remain polio free since January 2011.

An Indian media outlet, the Hindu, quoted a senior official of India’s Health Ministry, as saying that a delegation from Afghanistan will be in India this month to learn from the Indian experience, but Pakistan has so far maintained silence on whether it wants to take up the offer.

The Ministry had forwarded the polio eradication plan after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an offer to support medical surveillance of polio-free countries, and provide vaccines where it might reappear during the 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu this past November.

“India has been polio free since 2011, and in the past as well we have offered our help to the neighboring nations, as the polio virus can easily transmit through contaminated water and feces,” said the official.

With three new cases of polio detected in Pakistan this past week, taking the total to six this year, India is on the alert again. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also cautioned against the spread of the virus from Pakistan. In 2014, the WHO confirmed that polio virus from Pakistan had spread to Israel, West Bank and Gaza.

Polio vaccination campaign covers millions of children all over Afghanistan every year. The main hurdle for this drive is insecurity. Security threats have made Afghanistan to remain as a polio-endemic country despite of the government’s struggles in this regard.

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