|© UNICEF/HQ07-1074/ Noorani|
|A health worker vaccinates a boy through the open window of a car at a roadblock in the southern city of Kandahar.|
By Roshan Khadivi
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, 20 September 2007 – Warring factions in Afghanistan have promised to honour tomorrow's International Day of Peace by stating their support for 1.3 million children to be vaccinated against polio.
More than 10,000 vaccinators are visiting areas in southern and eastern regions of the country as part of the National Immunization Days organized by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) to reach children with polio vaccines from 19-21 September.
Many of the areas being visited by the immunization teams were missed during previous drives due to security concerns. Some of the more volatile districts have not been accessible for two years.
"We will fully help the vaccination teams to carry out their campaign and they will not to be hurt by anyone as all our friends have been told to provide a safe environment for the vaccinators," said a Taliban spokesman.
A call to lay aside weapons
The major focus for this year's International Day of Peace is Afghanistan. The United Nations called on all parties to the conflict there to support peace. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for people around the world to observe a moment of silence at noon.
"As the guns fall silent, we should use this opportunity to ponder the price we all pay due to conflict, and we should resolve to vigorously pursue ways to make permanent this day's pause," Mr. Ban said in a statement.
|© UNICEF Afghanistan/2007/ Tuladhar|
|Children enjoy a rare moment of fun during a Peace Day celebration in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.|
This is the first time the people of Afghanistan joined by the UN agencies, non-governmental and community-based organizations, government ministries and the media are celebrating the International Day of Peace here in a country that has experienced over two decades of conflict.
Hundreds of activites already planned
An official Countdown to the Internation Day of Peace organized by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) began on 11 September. Since then, hundreds of activities have been planned around the country.
Some of the activities include debates on what young people can do to bring peace to the country as well as a peace march in western Afghanistan organized with the youth members of the Afghan Red Crescent Society.
In Bamiyan Province, UNICEF and its partners are hosting a drawing competition for children near the former site of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, a cultural landmark that was destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban.
In the northern region, poetry and celebrations have been planned with primary and secondary school students in remote areas. The eastern region began its peace celebrations by opening a community-based school and safe play areas for child returnees in Tange Kosh Settlement. The region is now planning another peace celebration on 21 September in Jalalabad city.
‘Peace One Day’
During a recent visit to UNICEF Afghanistan, English actor and Peace One Day Ambassador Jude Law said, “I have been moved by the hope and heritage of the people here who have experienced two generations in conflict and still have a great belief that peace will prevail.”
Mr. Law was travelling with the founder of Peace One Day Jeremy Gilley on a mission to document peace commitments and activities in Afghanistan for an upcoming film which will be released in May 2008.
Peace One Day supporters will celebrate 21 September with a special concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London featuring Annie Lennox, Yusuf Islam, Corinne Bailey Rae and other musicians. The concert will feature videos and appearances by Jude Law, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham and President of UNICEF UK Lord David Puttnam. Video footage of Jude and Jeremy’s preparations for the International Day of Peace in Afghanistan will also be shown.
Dan Thomas contributed to this article from New York
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