After the wild poliovirus was officially eliminated in Africa in August, Afghanistan and Pakistan became the only countries in the world where polio remains endemic, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.
UNICEF in a press release has said that a highly infectious, paralyzing and sometimes fatal disease that mainly affects children under the age of 5, polio is entirely vaccine-preventable, but ongoing conflict and political instability in Afghanistan make it difficult to reach every child.
According to the press release, migration along the porous and rugged border between the two countries further complicates vaccination efforts, leaving children on both sides of the border vulnerable to contracting the debilitating disease.
“COVID-19 has challenged immunization efforts around the world, but UNICEF and partners are determined to see that all children are protected with lifesaving vaccines,” UNICEF said.
UNICEF says it is the only humanitarian agency that has had a continuous presence in Afghanistan for the past 70 years.
“UNICEF offices have remained open, despite the pandemic. During the country’s COVID-19 lockdown, many staff members based in Kandahar did not see their families for more than six months as they continued to provide essential services to children and families in need,” the press release said.
A UNICEF-supported polio vaccination campaign in September 2020 targeted more than 6 million children under the age of 5, including the 1-year-old above, in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar Province.