A polio worker to whom the vaccine didn't reach
Asadullah was three years old when he was told he would never walk again. He was born during intense fighting in southern Afghanistan, when polio workers were unable to reach him with vaccination. Instead, the polio virus found its way to Asadullah and he was left paralysed. In Afghanistan, inaccessibility remains one of the major barriers to polio eradication.
With few work opportunities and insecurity, life in Afghanistan is hard for young people. But with limited mobility, it is even more difficult. “When you are paralyzed, you don’t exist. I feel like half a man; half a person. I can’t even do simple things, and rely on my friends to carry me. It is humiliating. I feel like someone’s luggage,” he says quietly.
Asadullah is now 19 years old, and uses a rusty tricycle to move around. He receives a small stipend from the government, but in a country where over 40 per cent of young people are unemployed, Asadullah fears he may never find work.
He says his disability impacts every aspect of his life: “Most men look forward to marriage and having children. I want my own family, but I could never afford the dowry. Who would give their daughter or sister to me?”
But Asadullah isn’t giving up. Once, his friends went to see the sunrise in the desert. He couldn’t take his wheelchair, and his friends wouldn’t carry him, so he clambered with his hands. “It was really hard to climb the dunes, but I made it. It made me feel strong, and the view was worth it!” Asadullah is also a passionate advocate for ending polio.
It upsets me when I see people who refuse to vaccinate their children because of religion or something else. Every parent should give their child the opportunities I don’t have.
He supports polio eradication by focusing his efforts on families that refuse the vaccine. He represents the polio programme on Afghan TV and radio, encouraging all parents to protect their children from potential paralysis. Asadullah says that no one in his community rejects the vaccine now. Giving other children a life he never had brings him comfort.