Afghanistan presses ahead to end polio


Past District Governor Stephen Brown and his wife, Susan, join Afghan volunteers (many wearing Rotary caps) during the NIDs. Photo by Fary Moini.

  • Dr. Nasir Khan, president of the Rotary Club of Jalalabad, immunizes a child against polio during Afghanistan’s March NIDs. National Immunisation Day
  • Afghanistan’s March NIDs reached about 6.9 million children. However, fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces prevented immunization of all children targeted by the effort.
  • Vaccinating children and keeping track of who has been immunized is a challenge in a country without a census and where families, especially in the southern region, are constantly on the move to avoid danger. “In the morning you can go in [a village], but in the afternoon you can’t,” says Dr. Rahmatullah Kamwak, who works in support of WHO efforts in southern Afghanistan.
  • Nevertheless, courageous volunteers armed with oral polio vaccine do an extraordinary job of finding children and ensuring they are protected against the crippling disease. The volunteers create a kind of mobile medical record as they work, staining children’s fingers with colored markers to verify they’ve received the vaccine and writing notes in chalk on the doors of mud-brick dwellings to indicate households that have been reached.
  • Afghanistan’s] polio campaign is nothing short of heroic,” says Martin Bell, UNICEF’s ambassador for humanitarian emergencies. “It is setting an example to the world of what can be achieved under the most dire circumstances. . . . If Afghans could eradicate polio from their country in a time of war, what could they accomplish in a time of peace?”
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