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Pakistan Launches Polio Vaccination Drive

A health worker gives polio vaccine to a child in Lahore on September 24
A health worker gives polio vaccine to a child in Lahore on September 24

Pakistan has launched a week-long polio vaccination drive aimed at eradicating the crippling disease.

Safdar Rana, who leads Pakistan’s fight against polio, said on September 24 that the drive would target 38.6 million children under the age of five, including the children of Afghan refugees who frequently travel between the two countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are among only a few countries in the world where polio still exists as an epidemic.

"Pakistan is closest ever to its goal [of polio eradication]," Rana said.

A three-day anti-polio campaign was launched in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the seven tribal districts on September 24, during which more than 6.5 million children below five years of age are expected to be vaccinated.

Iftikhar Ali, the deputy head of the anti-polio program for the tribal districts, said their goal was to vaccinate an estimated 900,000 children under the age of five in three days.

A UN-funded vaccination campaign has helped Pakistan to control the spread of the disease as the number of newly-affected children came down to only four so far this year compared to 306 in 2014.

Militants have killed scores of anti-polio workers in the past decade because they believe the vaccine is intended to make Muslim children sterile.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal and dpa