The four-day door-to-door campaign is set to begin on Monday with an aim to target an estimated population of the country’s 10 million children under age 5.

Some 3.3 million children could not be vaccinated in the country over the past three years due to a ban on polio inoculation. (Reuters)

Afghanistan has announced the start of a four-day nationwide polio vaccination campaign aimed at inoculating children under age 5.

“Without any doubt polio is a disease that without treatment will either kill our children or cause them with permanent disability, so in this case the only way is to implement the vaccination,” said Dr. Qalandar Ebad, the Taliban’s acting public health minister on Sunday.

The four-day campaign will start on Monday and take place countrywide, Ebad said.

The estimated target population is Afghanistan’s 10 million children under age 5, including the more than 3.3 million who could not be reached since 2018.

“Vaccination of (children) less than five years of age in the country during the national immunisation days is a gigantic task. It is not possible for the ministry of public health alone to complete this task successfully, so we need the support of all lined departments,” said Nek Wali Shah Momin, a health ministry official in the polio eradication department.

Long hiatus

For the past three years before taking control of Afghanistan, the Taliban had barred UN-organised vaccination teams from doing door-to-door campaigns in parts of the country under their control.

The group apparently was suspicious the team members could be spies for the previous government or the West.

Because of the ban and ongoing fighting, some 3.3 million children over the past three years have not been vaccinated.

Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan are the only countries in the world where polio remains endemic and the disease can cause partial paralysis in children.

Since 2010, the country has been carrying out regular inoculation campaigns in which workers go door to door, giving the vaccine to children.

Most of the workers are women, since they can get better access to mothers and children.

The World Health Organization and the UN children’s agency UNICEF in a joint statement last month said they welcomed the decision by the Taliban leadership supporting the resumption of house-to-house polio vaccinations across the country.

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