“We’re not against polio immunisation” - Taliban
KABUL, 25 March 2009 (IRIN) - A Taliban spokesman
has said the Taliban are not against polio
immunisation campaigns in areas under their influence
A statement to this effect was made to IRIN in a
telephone interview with the insurgents’ chief
spokesman, Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, from an unidentified
“We are not against polio immunisation and we have
not impeded vaccinators in areas under our control,”
said Ahmadi, adding that government and foreign forces
should not try to use immunisation exercises for
military and political gain.
“Vaccinators must coordinate with us before they
begin the process,” he said.
Such claims may seem hard to believe given
persistent accusations over the years of systematic
Taliban attacks on health centres, the aid community
and other civilians.
However, Abdullah Fahim, a spokesman for the Health
Ministry (MoPH), appeared to acknowledge the Taliban
statement: “We have not received reports that the
Taliban have blocked polio immunisation [drives].”
Insecurity, largely resulting from
insurgency-related violence, has impeded aid delivery,
health activities and immunisation efforts in large
swathes of the country, according to the UN.
The UN and the MoPH have said about 200,000
children, mostly in the volatile southern provinces,
have missed out on polio immunisation.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO),
much of Afghanistan has been polio-free for the past
two to three years except for the conflict-affected
southern region where four polio cases have been
reported so far in 2009. Some 31 cases were reported
in 2008 and 17 cases in 2007.
Seven million immunised
Backed by UN agencies, the MoPH implemented a
nationwide anti-polio drive on 15-17 March, immunising
about seven million children under five.
However, over 150,000 children in the four southern
provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul and Uruzgan
missed doses of trivalent oral poliovirus vaccine
(OPV3) because of access restrictions, Fahim said.
Security problems in areas along the porous border
between Afghanistan and Pakistan (where 118 polio
cases were confirmed in 2008) and the large-scale
movement of people between the two countries have also
complicated efforts to wipe out the virus which is
endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nigeria,
according to WHO.
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