Where are we today?
Afghanistan has made tremendous progress towards reducing the under-five mortality rate, from 192 to 77 deaths per 1000 live births between 2001 and 2015. Most of the deaths in the first five years of life are preventable and provision of quality vaccines to all eligible children is one of the most cost-effective means for averting this preventable mortality. More than 50% of children aged 12-23 are not fully immunized and there are wide disparities across geographical regions.
Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan is catering to more than 1.4 million children under the age of one year and 3.5 million women of child bearing age, with Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) vaccines, and almost 10 million children under the age of five with polio vaccine. These mothers and children are spread out in all 34 provinces across the country, in many cases challenged by protracted conflict, difficult geographic terrain, extreme weather conditions and poverty. UNICEF, with financial support of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and Government of Japan, is the sole provider of vaccines and cold chain equipment in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is one of the only two polio endemic countries in the world. Although the country continues to report cases of polio, the programme has made progress towards interrupting wild polio virus transmission. Transmission is more geographically restricted than ever before. Currently polio is mainly limited to the Southern region (Kandahar Helmand and Urozgan provinces) and Eastern region (Kunar province) of the country, that form part of the northern and southern epidemiological block with neighbouring provinces of Pakistan. Recent cases are geographically clustered in areas where insecurity and access continue to present challenges to reaching all children during campaigns.