The Kabul Times.
Editorial

Polio eradication requires int’l support, local cooperation

Afghanistan is one of the countries where polio remains endemic. The number of reported cases had been reduced in recent years in the wake of campaign against poliovirus. But as mounting insecurity hampered the campaign, the cases have been moving upward.
The spread of coronavirus pandemic and mounting insurgency have disrupted the anti-polio campaign. It is believed that two main obstacles hamper the campaign in the country. First, a sense of mistrust filled the air in tribal belts – where the militants hold strong sway – as a result of the militants’ negative propaganda.
Parents lost their trust in health workers and showed little tendency in having their children vaccinated. Second, the escalated insurgency in restive provinces jeopardize the life of health workers. Warring factions, mainly the Taliban, spill the blood of combatants and non-combatants indiscriminately.
They have constantly violated humanitarian law through slaying women, children and health workers. In other words, although medical facilities, staff and patients during war time are given immunity by the Laws of Armed Conflict – also known as International Humanitarian Law – the militants target them on purpose. Within past years, a number of polio workers, including women, have been targeted by armed gunmen in insecure provinces.
This comes after the three women were killed in two separate incidents in Jalalabad on Tuesday morning. Security sources said two women were killed in PD7 and another one was shot dead in PD4 of the provincial capital Jalalabad. No group, so far, has claimed responsibility for the attack which prompted a wide outcry in the country.
Meanwhile Foreign partners in Afghanistan condemned the “brutal” killing of three female employees of the national polio vaccination campaign who were gunned down in two separate incidents.
Constitutionally, the Afghan government is committed to “provide free preventative healthcare and treatment of diseases as well as medical facilities to all citizens in accordance with the provisions of the law. It is believed that the Afghan government will not be able to eradicate diseases, especially the polio, without international aids and local people’s cooperation. No wonder, World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF play key role in the campaign against polio.
Four decades of war has inflicted great harm on Afghanistan’ political structure and economic infrastructures. That is to say, terrorism is still a challenging issue for the government and it has caused severe blow to the country’s economic bases. Therefore, the country will not be able to continue this campaign without international supports.
Besides to this, clerics and media should fulfill their duties in the best possible way. They should persuade parents to have their children vaccinated so as to safeguard them against disabilities and erased misconceptions spread by the Taliban. Health workers made great sacrifices to immunize children in any parts of the country. The only obstacle in this respect seems to be the escalated militancy.
To have a polio-free Afghanistan, the state in close coordination with local people should provide a safe ground for health workers and make sure that every single child is vaccinated. Meanwhile the people in rural areas should do more to prove a safe and sound environment for the health workers and do not allow anyone to target them and disseminate wrong propagandas.

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The Kabul Times.