Afghanistan

For Peace Day, Afghan children get a chance to be immunized

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Afghanistan/2008/ Knott
An Afghan child receives a polio vaccination during a national campaign which is making use of a ‘Day of Peace’ to reach children in conflict-ridden areas.

By Roshan Khadivi

NANGAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, 22 September 2008 – Afghan and international forces, including the Taliban, have been asked to lay down their weapons in support of the biggest Peace Day that Afghanistan has ever experienced.

Yesterday’s UN International Day of Peace was marked by marches, gatherings and ceremonies. Kites flew all over the country.

UNICEF, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the World Health Organization in Afghanistan urged all sides to take Peace Day as an opportunity to renew their commitment to children’s health and well-being. They asked that schools, literacy centres, students and teachers be protected from attacks.

From January through 20 September 2008, more than 200 school attacks have taken place in Afghanistan, resulting in 37 deaths.

Polio immunization drive

About 14,000 vaccinators are using the hoped-for pause in violence to immunize children against polio in insecure districts in the southern and eastern and western regions of the country – all as part of the National Immunization Days organized by UNICEF, WHO and the Ministry of Public Health.

The three-day campaign, from 21-23 September, will cover districts in Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, Nangahar and Lagman, as well as the western region of Farah.

“We will give access to the polio vaccination teams to carry out their activities,” said a statement issued by the Taliban.

Reaching every child

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Afghanistan/2008/ Knott
UNICEF Representative Catherine Mbengue and WHO Representative Peter Graff administer oral polio vaccine to an Afghan child. With the incidence of polio rising in Afghanistan, UNICEF and its partners have used Peace Day to immunize many children.

Eighteen cases of polio have been reported in Afghanistan so far this year, compared with nine cases during the same period last year. Most of these cases are in the country’s southern and eastern provinces, where access is difficult due to ongoing conflict.

“It is possible to eradicate polio in Afghanistan. However, a commitment is required from all parties to the conflict and [from] communities,” said UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Catherine Mbengue.

“Our goal is to reach every child in Afghanistan,” she added.

‘A window for peace’

“Today’s events show the huge demand that exists for peace in Afghanistan,” said the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, Kai Eide, in his Peace Day message. “A window for peace has been opened, through which the people of Afghanistan are making themselves heard.

“Peace for a day is a start,” he continued. “Peace that is enduring must be our common goal.”

Peace Day was established by a UN resolution in 1981 to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly. In 2002, the General Assembly officially declared 21 September as the permanent date for the International Day of Peace.


 

 

Video

21 September 2008: UNICEF's Ash Sweeting reports on the UN International Day of Peace in Afghanistan.

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