By Akhtar M. Nikzad-KABUL: A vaccination campaign titled ‘National Vaccination Week’ was kicked off on Sunday to save the lives of children and immunize them against a number of contagious and in the meantime preventable diseases, including measles—an infectious disease among children.
The campaign is launched by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), aimed at raising public awareness about different common diseases and improving vaccination services to citizens.
The deputy minister of Public Health, Ahmad Jan Naeem, said that measles outbreak is increasing in the country as at least 445 cases of the disease have been registered this year which is much higher than the past year’s figures—581 cases in the whole year. “As part of the World Immunization Week, the MoPH in collaboration with the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department, WHO and UNICEF conducted a measles immunization campaign in Khost, Helmand and Kandahar provinces which are mostly at risk of the contagious disease,” he said.
According to him, the campaign will cover more than 0.5 million under-five-year-old children by giving them two drops of polio vaccination as well. The campaign is now for few provinces; it will be held countrywide in May and July which will cover five million children.
“Overall immunization coverage remains low with disparities throughout Afghanistan, particularly between rural and urban areas and secure and insecure zones. Around one-fifth of Afghan women and children have never been immunized against the disease,” said Richard Peeperkorn, Country Representative for WHO.
He stated that Afghanistan has made remarkable progress in protection of children from vaccine-preventable diseases but despite of the success still its immunization program is faced with challenges and children die from diseases that can be prevented with vaccines.
“Under-five mortality in Afghanistan is among the highest in the world. We need to close immunization gaps people should understand their families receive all required vaccinations,” he said.
UNICEF representative in Afghanistan, Akhil Lyer, told the session that the organization as an international partner is strongly committed to continue cooperation for the MoPH in implementation of vaccination program for 1.2 million children under-five years old especially the children who did not receive some vaccine turns or never received vaccinations.