Photo: WHO Afghanistan

WHO sets up 37 polio sample test sites across Afghanistan

World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that it has established 37 sites across Afghanistan to collect and test sewage samples for polio virus.

WHO Afghanistan said in a tweet on June 11 that its environmental surveillance system for polio will expand toward polio eradication as its services reach more communities in the country.

On May 15, a 4-day polio vaccination campaign was launched intending to immunize 6.4 million kids in 23 provinces of Afghanistan. Now, officials say a new country-wide campaign is underway.

So far, four cases of polio have been recorded in 2023, the first case was reported in May when a four-year-old child was diagnosed with the virus in the Bati Kot district of Nangarhar province.

Polio Free Afghanistan states that in 2022, two cases of polio were recorded in Kunar and Paktia provinces, the lowest level in the country. In 2021, four cases were recorded. In 2020, at least 56 cases were reported due to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting immunization services across Afghanistan.

According to Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which is led by World Health Organization, polio remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan and both countries remain at high risk due to conflicts and weak public and immunization services. Cross-border transmission also remains inevitable in both countries with 1.5 million children crossing the frontier every year.