By: The Kabul Times
A new polio case has been reported from Watapur District of Kunar Province which permanently paralyzed a 3 months old male child. This new case brings the total number of polio cases for Afghanistan to 8 in 2019. This is the first case from the Eastern region this year, the rest 7 cases have been reported from Southern region. There are relatively large areas in Watarpur that have been inaccessible for most of the polio vaccination campaigns and routine immunization. Around 85% of target children (8,500 out of 9,821) were inaccessible in last Subnational Immunization Activity conducted in April. Inaccessibility in Watapur district has been dynamic since many years now. This area has been under Daesh control since August 2018 and before that, it was under the control of Taliban.
The Afghan Minister of Public Health, Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz expressed his deepest concern saying that the inaccessibility was a big challenge in reaching every child with two drops of polio vaccination as the children’s right to a healthy life. There are two major challenges ahead of polio eradication efforts in Afghanistan: first, the inaccessibility that means many children are unable to be vaccinated in every round of polio vaccination campaign due to security problems and second, the low awareness of community about importance of polio vaccine and risk of polio virus to their children. Combined, these two issues mean that many children are needlessly at risk of permanent paralysis due to polio.
Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease. There is no cure and the polio vaccine is the only safe and effective way to protect children. All children should be vaccinated against polio during each campaign, until they reach the age of five. House-to-house vaccination is the only effective way to achieve polio eradication because it means every child has access to vaccination. This strategy has been implemented in all countries, and has proven to be most effective. However, if parents live in areas where there is no house-to-house campaign available, they should take their children to the local health facility for free polio vaccine. The polio vaccine is safe, even for sick and newborn children. It is very important that newborns and sick children get the vaccine, because they may have lower immunity which makes them more susceptible to the virus.
Polio vaccination has also been strongly endorsed by national and global Islamic scholars. Currently, only Afghanistan and Pakistan are reporting endemic polio cases. So far, in 2019, Afghanistan has reported 8, and Pakistan has reported 19 positive polio cases.