UN reaches 1.2 million Afghan children with polio vaccine after nearby outbreak

Child being vaccinated against Polio in Afghanistan

7 June 2010 – The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) has vaccinated more than 1.2 million children in Afghanistan against polio after an outbreak of the sometimes deadly disease in neighbouring Tajikistan, where it was thought to have been eradicated nearly one decade ago.

Most of the 200 cases reported as of 5 June were near Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan, the target of WHO’s vaccination drive earlier this month.

The agency vaccinated more than 1 million children in Tajikistan against polio last month.

To guarantee that no child is left unvaccinated in Afghanistan, where health coverage is poor in remote areas, WHO took a four-pronged approach, setting up immunization posts at border crossing points to reach all children travelling between the two countries; carrying out house-to-house visits; setting up mobile clinics; and having fixed teams in hospitals.

Afghanistan’s Badakhshan region has been polio-free for some 10 years, making it all the more important to contain possible spill-over effects from outbreaks in neighbouring areas.

Polio, sometimes called poliomyelitis, is a highly infectious and sometimes fatal disease, and is often marked by acute flaccid paralysis among sufferers. It has been eradicated from much of the world, but experience shows that the virus can travel far relatively rapidly.

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Tajikistan: UN agencies help to roll out polio vaccines for distribution

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