Sunday, June 1st, 2008
Sunday, June 1, 2008
The United Nations children’s agency and the World Health Organization have begun a three-day campaign to vaccinate more than a million children against polio in southern Afghanistan.
At one of the clinics that opened Sunday, women in burkas brought their children to a small table outside the hospital in downtown Kandahar.
There, the children were instructed to open their mouths to allow a UNICEF worker to drop in pink liquid, one of many doses they’ll receive for the vaccine to be effective.
The deputy governor of Kandahar province, Ghulam Jailani, kicked off the three-day vaccination campaign by delivering doses to two children.
Speaking to reporters, he acknowledged there are security problems in southern Afghanistan and said his staff is urging elders to allow health workers into their villages to deliver the vaccine safely.
Dr. Shahwali Popal, a health specialist with UNICEF, said the UN is using what the agency calls access negotiators – people who talk to the mullahs, teachers and local elders – and the strategy to eradicate a viral disease that can cause paralysis and deformities seems to be working.
“Even sometimes the health authorities are receiving calls from the communities asking why the teams are not coming to this location, so it means the involvement of the community is increasing,” he told CBC News.
Popal said some areas are still too dangerous to visit, and already this year cases of polio have been reported in the region, but overall the number of children with polio is dropping in Afghanistan.