The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched the fourth national polio immunization campaign in Afghanistan on Monday which will be synchronized with Pakistan to improve cross-border polio eradication efforts, UNICEF said in a statement.
According to UNICEF, the campaign will continue from December 13 to 16.
“The campaign targets 9.9 million children aged 0-59 months across the country. In the south and east regions, and provinces of Pakitia and Ghazni in the southeast, Ghor in the west, and Balkh in north, the campaign is scheduled … this month,” the statement reads.
According to UNICEF, this is the second campaign to reach children in areas previously inaccessible. The first of such campaigns was launched in November, which delivered polio vaccination to 8.5 million under-five children, including 2.4 million children who were vaccinated for the first time in over three years.
“We are intensifying efforts to reach the maximum number of children across the country, but we need sustained access to rapidly build immunity against polio, especially in areas we have not been able to reach in the last few years,” said Dr Dapeng Luo, WHO Representative in Afghanistan. “The November campaign was a massive leap forward and the upcoming campaign will further strengthen the progress we are making. Six more campaigns are planned for 2022 and we must ensure they are implemented (in a timely way) and reach all children,” he said.
UNICEF said so far 2021 has had the lowest polio transmission rates in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, calling it is the best opportunity to interrupt the transmission of the virus.
According to UNICEF, in 2021, four wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) cases were discovered in the country. One case was reported in Ghazni province and three cases were reported in Kunduz province.
“Immunization is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions, saving children’s lives and contributing to a better future for Afghan children,” said Alice Akunga, a UNICEF representative. “We must intensify our efforts to reach all children, especially those in greatest need, in order to bring polio disease under control,” she said.
UNICEF also called on communities and officials to ensure the safety of polio workers to reach all children in the target ages.