Photo: Polio Free Afghanistan on X

Polio Vaccination Offers Taliban and the UN an Easy Cooperation Space

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – The Taliban, in partnership with international organizations, kicked off the second round of a nationwide polio vaccination campaign in Afghanistan, aiming to protect children from paralysis.

The Taliban Ministry of Public Health announced that the vaccination campaign began today, June 3, and will run for four days. The campaign aims to vaccinate over 11 million children under the age of five across Afghanistan.

The ministry urged parents, religious scholars, community elders, and influential figures across the country to support the campaign and the vaccinators by ensuring children are vaccinated against polio during this period.

Meanwhile, in a social media post announcing the new phase of polio vaccination, Polio Free Afghanistan, an initiative dedicated to eradicating polio in the country, also urged parents to support the campaign.

“Today the polio vaccination campaign starts all over the country. Let’s create a safe and brighter Afghanistan by vaccinating your child against polio in this campaign,” Polio Free Afghanistan said.

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of five years. It invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death. While there is no cure for polio, vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from this crippling disease.

The virus has been nearly eradicated worldwide through decades of campaigns and vaccination efforts. However, in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, the vaccination campaign has faced obstacles due to insecurity, poverty, displacement, illiteracy, limited awareness about the disease, and suspicions of external interference.

Although no positive polio cases have been reported in Afghanistan so far this year, the country recorded six cases last year, all of which occurred in eastern Nangarhar province.

Pakistan has reported four wild poliovirus cases so far this year, with the most recent cases recorded on June 1 in Shikarpur district of Sindh province. The country has also launched its fifth polio vaccination drive of the year today, aiming to vaccinate over 16.5 million children nationwide.

Prior to the takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban consistently prohibited door-to-door immunization efforts and targeted vaccination workers in the southern and eastern regions of the country. Additionally, the group’s insurgency against the Western-backed government was one of the main obstacles to the vaccination campaign.

However, since their return to power, the regime has been grappling with a challenge that had previously impeded eradication efforts.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) remain the two major implementers of vaccination efforts in Afghanistan. UNICEF reports that last year, approximately 9.4 million children throughout Afghanistan received vaccination against this lethal disease.