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Polio vaccine reaches 5 million children

© UNICEF video
A child in Kabul, Afghanistan, receives a vitamin A supplement and the polio vaccine during the National Immunization Days (NIDs).

KABUL, 27 February 2005 – A three-day polio immunization campaign in Afghanistan has succeeded in vaccinating an estimated 5.3 million children under the age of five.

The synchronized nationwide campaigns are called ‘National Immunization Days’ (NIDs), and are part of a joint Government and UN effort to eradicate polio from Afghanistan.

Led by the Ministry of Public Health, with support from UNICEF and the World Health Organization, the campaigns are carried out by more than 35,000 vaccinators, supervisors and monitors in provinces across the nation to deliver the oral vaccine.

When they were vaccinated, children also received vitamin A supplements. The supplements help boost their resistance to other childhood diseases. The vitamin A campaign had been planned for later in the year but was brought forward to March in an effort to give children protection against the particularly harsh winter the country is experiencing.

The cold weather conditions in recent weeks have led to a delay in the NIDs coverage to districts where access is restricted by heavy snow. These areas will be covered in an extra round of immunization scheduled for May. Despite the restrictions on access caused by the bad weather, vaccinators managed to reach 80 per cent of the original target population, which was set at 6.7 million children.

© UNICEF video
Vitamin A supplements help to build up a child’s immune system.

Steady progress

Afghanistan has made steady progress towards the eradication of polio over the last three years. In 2004, there were just four reported cases of polio, compared to 10 in 2002. The current round of immunizations coincided with a similar exercise in neighbouring Pakistan, to reduce the chances of cross-border transmission of the virus.

In addition to the regular vaccination campaigns, health officials continue to urge families to have their children immunized as part of routine health care. Recent outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in some parts of Afghanistan are easily preventable through routine immunization.  Although immunization campaigns do reach large numbers of children, vaccination levels are still under 50 per cent in some parts of the country.

Afghanistan’s NIDs are supported with financial contributions from the Governments of Japan, USAID and Rotary International.




27 February 2005: UNICEF’s Edward Carwardine reports on the near-eradication of polio in Afghanistan.

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