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War blocks Afghan polio effort

22nd November 2006

A last-ditch drive to eradicate polio in Afghanistan, one of the four remaining countries where it is endemic, is being hampered by increased violence in the region.

Efforts to stop an outbreak in the country's Southern Region have been compromised by increased insecurity in recent months, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.

"This has significantly curtailed the ability of local vaccinators to safely reach all children, and has led to a decrease in vaccination coverage and dramatic increase in the incidence of polio in 2006, with 29 cases reported – virtually all from the Southern Region - compared to just four cases during the same period in 2005," the agencies said in a statement.

Afghanistan is one of only four remaining polio-endemic countries in the world, the Afghan authorities almost succeeded in wiping out the disease last year.

WHO and UNICEF have called on all parties to the conflict to agree on ‘Days of Tranquility’ during all upcoming polio vaccination campaigns in the troubled Southern Region. Such agreed days of solidarity among all Afghans and development partners would allow local vaccination teams to reach all populations, and save further children from a fate of life-long paralysis, the agencies said.

They also called on religious and community leaders to support polio eradication activities in the Southern Region and throughout Afghanistan.

 

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