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UN: Afghanistan-Wide Polio Vaccination To Start Next Month

An Afghan health worker administers a polio vaccinates to a child in Kandahar earlier this year.

Afghanistan next month will begin its first countrywide anti-polio vaccination campaign in years, with full support from the country's Taliban rulers, the United Nations said on October 18.

The United Nations' health and children's agencies said the campaign to vaccinate against the crippling and potentially fatal disease would begin on November 8.

"WHO and UNICEF welcome the decision by the Taliban leadership supporting the resumption of house-to-house polio vaccination across Afghanistan," they said in a statement.

The two agencies said the UN had been in contact with the group's senior leadership since the Taliban swept back into power two months ago.

"The Taliban leadership has expressed their commitment for the inclusion of female frontline workers," the statement said.

The inoculation campaign "will be the first in over three years to reach all children in Afghanistan, including more than 3.3 million children in some parts of the country who have previously remained inaccessible to vaccination campaigns," it said.

The militant group's leadership had also committed to "providing security and assuring the safety of all health workers across the country, which is an essential prerequisite for the implementation of polio vaccination campaigns," the agencies said.

The Taliban's position marks a noticeable departure from its stance during the militants' two-decade war against the now-deposed Western-backed government. The group's leaders often told communities in areas they controlled that vaccines were a Western conspiracy aimed at sterilizing Muslim children.

A separate nationwide polio vaccination campaign is planned in neighboring Pakistan in December, the two UN agencies said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only countries where the wild version of the poliovirus continues to spread.

With reporting by AFP
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