Afghanistan

Afghanistan launches first-ever vaccination week, putting children first

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Afghanistan/2010/Walther
In Jalalabad, Afghanistan, a boy's hand is marked after he has been vaccinated, to ensure that the dosage is not duplicated.

By Cornelia Walther

KABUL, Afghanistan, 27 April 2010 – Many thousands of Afghan children can expect better health as the country launches its first-ever vaccination week.

The event was celebrated in Kabul on 25 April to coincide with World Malaria Day. UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) are working with the Afghan Government to ensure that children across the country are protected from deadly diseases.

Great strides in immunization

“All [children] need protection from diseases,” said UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Catherine Mbengue. “Lives are lost and resources spent to care for sick children. Both could yield much better results if used for prevention or the immunization of children against measles, polio, tetanus and influenza.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Afghanistan/2010/Walther
An Afghan baby receives the bivalent oral polio vaccine.

“Only together we can achieve this,” she added.

"An estimated 180,000 infants miss out on routine vaccination in Afghanistan every year,” said WHO Representative in Afghanistan Peter Graaff. “Some of those who are not immunized live in insecure areas. They lack access to basic health services. Others are not immunized due to little awareness of the importance of immunization.”

In Afghanistan, great strides have been made to expand immunization for preventable diseases. Achievements include the 2006 establishment of a robust Disease Early Warning System, a nationwide network for monitoring and surveillance; the expansion of measles coverage; and the introduction of vaccines against hepatitis B and influenza.

Today more than 2,700 vaccinators are providing routine immunization services through fixed health posts, outreach programmes and mobile activities all over the country. In addition, six rounds of polio Immunization Days reached some 7.5 million children under five years of age in 2009.

Overcoming conflict and other obstacles

"Access to communities affected by violence, or large distances between homes and health providers, are major obstacles for our work to vaccinate children," said WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Action in Crises Dr. Eric Laroche. "But we have seen that reaching out to all people, encouraging them to put the health of their children first, is something that all sides can agree on."

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Afghanistan/2010/Walther
Children join representatives from UNICEF, the Afghan Government and the World Health Organization at the Kabul launch of the country's first-ever vaccination week.

Another of Afghanistan’s public health challenges is malaria – a major cause of morbidity and mortality nationwide. In 2009, some 400,000 malaria cases were reported here.

By launching the country’s first vaccination week on World Malaria Day, Afghan health authorities and their partners sent a clear message making a priority of the fight against this deadly disease. The National Malaria Control Programme aims to rid Afghanistan's northern provinces of malaria within the next five years.

“As we launch this immunization week, we call once again on all partners to make the prevention of diseases – be it polio, measles or malaria – a priority for all of us,” said Ms. Mbengue. “Together, we can protect our children in 2010 and beyond.”


 

 

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