Ministry of Public Health cites latest polio case as evidence for increased community support

Kabul, 16 September 2018 –The latest polio case, reported in Uruzgan province, shows the need for increased community engagement in polio eradication. This case, an 11-month old boy from Shaheed-e-Hassas district, marks the 13th child needlessly paralyzed from polio this year. Afghanistan has more cases of polio than any other country in the world and accounts for about 75% of all polio cases worldwide.

Responding to the latest case, the Minister of Public Health Dr Ferozuddin Feroz said: “This new case must be a wakeup call for Afghanistan.  We are at very real risk of having more polio cases this year than in 2017.  The polio programme has done an outstanding surveillance job, finding children infected by polio and trying to ensure they are unable to infect other children around them but the programme alone cannot end polio.  All Afghans must be part of ending polio.  It is the responsibility of parents and community members to support polio vaccination campaigns for all districts, and ensure that all children are vaccinated every time vaccine is offered.” 

There are currently more than 1.2 million children unable to receive polio vaccination because they live in districts where house-to-house campaigns are not allowed, or their parents do not ensure they are home or accepting vaccine when vaccinators come to the door.  House-to-house campaigns are the only way to reach all children since many women do not leave the home.  That is why it is the only way to end polio.  Parents who refuse to vaccinate their child put their child at risk of permanent paralysis. Millions of Muslim children around the world have been safely protected from polio through repeated vaccination. In fact, every Muslim country in the world except Afghanistan and Pakistan have ended polio in their countries.

“I would also like to stress that this is a non-partisan campaign to protect every Afghan child from paralysis.” The Minister added: “In the 30 years since the world came together to end polio, every country has done so except Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. Afghanistan can be the country to end polio for the world but only if we all come together to protect our children.”  

The high transmission season for polio is in progress in Afghanistan, when children are most vulnerable to getting the polio virus.  All children who miss vaccination, either because they will not be home during a campaign or campaigns are not allowed in their communities, should visit their local health centre as soon as possible, where the vaccine is available free of charge. The polio vaccine is safe, even for sick and newborn children. It is very important these children get the vaccine, because they have lower immunity which makes them more susceptible to the virus. Polio vaccination has also been strongly endorsed by national and global Islamic scholars.

The next polio vaccination campaign will take place all areas at high risk for polio from 24 – 28 September.