Polio virus eradicated in north,
virulent in south
KABUL, 24 September 2008 (IRIN) - The Ministry of
Public Health has reported a virtual eradication of
the polio virus in the relatively calm northern
provinces and central highlands.
"In the past three years no polio case has been
reported in 10 northern and central provinces,"
Abdullah Fahim, spokesman for the Public Health
Ministry (MoPH), told IRIN.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) sent a
14-member team to different parts of the country to do
a rapid polio surveillance and assessment on 30
"The team concluded that there was no polio virus
in those [northern] areas and that the virus has been
localised in the south," said Tahir Mir, a medical
officer working for WHO in Kabul.
Poliomyelitis has not been reported in Badakhshan,
Takhar, Kunduz, Baghlan, Balgh, Jozjan, Badghis, Sari
Pol, Bamiyan and Samangan since 2005.
A certificate of polio virus eradication can be
issued when no wild polio virus is found for at least
three years, according to WHO's rules.
The crippling virus has not been eradicated in the
remaining 24 provinces of the country, but reported
cases have dropped significantly in several other
provinces, including Kabul.
However, Afghanistan has a long way to go to purge
its whole territory of the virus.
At least 16 cases have been reported in the
volatile south and southeast this year, according to
the ministry. Seven polio cases were reported in the
same regions in 2007.
"In the south and southeast, insecurity and attacks
on health workers have impeded our efforts to access
and immunise every child under-five," said the
Public health officials said polio immunisation
drives would be implemented countrywide, including in
the polio-free north, both to consolidate the progress
made and to contain the spread of the virus from the
"We will concentrate anti-polio efforts on southern
and southeastern provinces where the virus is
virulent," Fahim said, adding that the target to wipe
out polio by 2011 would depend on security and health
workers' access to all under-fives.
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