World Health Organization Afghanistan Crisis Health Update

World Health Organization
Afghanistan Crisis
Health Update
19 April 2002
More than 60,000 volunteers throughout Afghanistan are vaccinating six million
Afghan children against polio during three days of national immunization. The
campaign began on April 16th and was preceded by intense social mobilization
throughout the country.
In Kabul, hundreds of NGO representatives, and national officials participated in a
inauguration ceremony that featured five polio-afflicted children reading poems, and
speaking about their experience with the disease. Other children were vaccinated
during the inauguration by representatives of the Ministry of Public Health, United
Nations agencies and donor countries. The polio eradication campaign is coordinated
by the Afghan Ministry of Public Health with support from the World Health
Organization, UNICEF and NGOs.
In Herat, the governor Ismail Khan inaugurated the campaign in the western area of
Afghanistan with an hour-long speech appealing to all Afghans to participate in the
effort to make Afghanistan polio-free. The western area including Herat, Farah, Ghor
and Badghis provinces feature some of the most difficult to reach districts of
Afghanistan. More than 750,000 children will be vaccinated in this region by 2000
teams during the campaign.
Radio and television have played an important role in mobilizing the population. The
Chairman of the Interim Administration, Hamid Karzai, recorded radio messages
reminding Afghans of the need to make their children available, and reassuring them
of the safety of the vaccinations. These messages were broadcast nationwide for five
days preceding the launch of the campaign.
Afghanistan is at a critical point in its eight-year struggle to rid the country of this
crippling disease. By the end of this year, it is likely that Afghanistan will have
succeeded in its effort to stop transmission of the wild poliovirus. This is largely due
to an extensive effort on the part of the Afghan people who have managed to carry out
vaccination campaigns despite widespread fighting and instability in the country over
the past several years.
In order to ensure eradication of polio, it is essential that every child under the age of
five receive two drops of the anti-polio vaccine. Mobile teams, trained by the World
Health Organization, have been operating in refugee and displaced persons camps,
and travelling to remote areas throughout the country. Although a large portion of
Afghanistan is considered nearly polio-free, the southern part of the country, near
Kandahar, is still reporting new cases. In order for a country to succeed in polio
eradication, it is necessary that there are no new cases nationwide for three years.
Afghanistan aims to eradicate polio completely by the year 2005.
For more information, please contact:
WHO Spokesperson for the Afghan Crisis: Loretta Hieber Girardet in Kabul at + 46
730 044 376;e-mail: [email protected]
Fadéla Chaib, WHO information officer, Geneva at (+ 41 22) 791 32 28 or (+ 41 79)
475 55 56. E-mail: [email protected]