Afghan Taliban - UN backdoor contacts resulted into polio vaccination of millions of Afghan children: Report

Afghan Taliban - UN backdoor contacts resulted into polio vaccination of millions of Afghan children: Report

KABUL - UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan Toby Lanzer on Thursday said that the organization had been in touch with members of the Taliban about conducting the polio vaccination campaign in Shahwalikot district of southern Kandahar province.

According to reports, thousands of children were vaccinated against the polio virus in Shahwalikot as a result of an agreement between UN and Taliban members responsible for health.

In 2017 the district of Shahwalikot in Kandahar province recorded five new cases of polio, the highest number in any district in the world, said Toby Lanzer, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan in a statement on Wednesday.

He said that the first round of the polio vaccination campaign has been completed successfully and that two more rounds are expected to be carried out in the area in the near future.

Lanzer said the polio virus spreads very quickly, and it is crucial for a series of at least three mass vaccination campaigns to take place to prevent the disease from reaching more children in the area.

Shahwalikot is one of the most insecure regions in the southern Kandahar province.

The health authorities, with support from UNICEF and WHO, on Wednesday completed the first of three polio vaccination campaigns in Shahwalikot, and in the neighboring districts of Miyanshin and Nesh, reaching 43,000 children.

“I am grateful to the authorities and community leaders who enabled 503 frontline workers to conduct the first campaign this week. I look forward to continued collaboration on this issue as we move forward, together,” said Lanzer.

“To enable the vaccination campaign to take place, so yes we were in touch with members of the Taliban, people within Taliban responsible for the health sector,” said Lanzer.

According to Lanzer, last year 17 cases of polio were recorded across Afghanistan.

“In the case of Afghanistan, there has been a lot of progress, thanks to the good work of Afghan authorities over the last few years and the number of cases of children who get polio has decreased from 50 two years ago to seventeen last year and hopefully this year we will manage to see even fewer cases,” added Lanzer

Afghanistan remains one of three countries in the world that is still polio-endemic.

Eradicating the disease is one of the chief aims of the United Nations globally. Its agencies in Afghanistan will spare no effort to enable the authorities to tackle this challenge, once and for all, he said.

In conclusion he said: “UNICEF plans on providing Afghanistan with 100 million doses of polio vaccine in 2018, and together with WHO which supports disease surveillance and the vaccination campaigns themselves, the UN is working closely with the Afghan authorities to rid the country of this terrible disease for good.”

Meanwhile, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has said the practice of preventing children from being inoculated against polio in insecure regions of Afghanistan is concerning.

Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are among the three nations in the world where polio has not been eradicated completely.