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Nationwide Polio Vaccine Drive Launched In Afghanistan With Taliban Backing

Afghan health workers administer a polio vaccine to a child in Kandahar.

United Nations agencies have kicked off a polio vaccination campaign for children across Afghanistan, the first nationwide drive to fight the potentially fatal disease in more than three years.

Health Ministry officials say 10 million children under the age of 5 are expected to receive the vaccine drops during the house-to-house inoculation campaign starting on November 8.

This includes more than 3 million children in parts of the war-torn country who had previously remained inaccessible to vaccination campaigns against the infectious disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

UNICEF and WHO announced last month that the Taliban leadership had given its support to resuming polio vaccinations across Afghanistan.

The Taliban has attacked polio vaccination teams in the past, accusing them of gathering intelligence on its militants. But the hard-line Islamist group is now ruling Afghanistan after toppling the internationally backed Kabul government in mid-August.

Polio is an incurable disease transmitted through sewage that can cause paralysis and death.

Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the last countries in the world where the disease is still endemic.

With only one case of wild poliovirus reported this year in Afghanistan, compared with 56 in 2020, the country has an “extraordinary opportunity” to eradicate the disease, WHO said.

"Vaccinate your #children against polio and protect their future!" UNICEF urged families in Afghanistan via Twitter on November 7.

This story includes reporting by Radio Azadi correspondents in Afghanistan. Their names are being withheld for their protection.
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