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Afghan Provincial Officials: Taliban Are Interfering in Polio Vaccination Efforts

By Khushal Zaland September 30, 2018

Afghan provincial health officials are accusing the country's insurgents of interfering in their work to vaccinate children against the virus of polio in the country's western Farah province.

Abdul Jabar Shayeq, head of Farhah's provincial health department, voiced concerns that Taliban are obstructing the vaccination efforts in certain insecure districts of the province by dictating the vaccinations be carried out only by their designated people.

"Armed Taliban do not accept our standards, and push for their conditions, in an effort to control the vaccination process. They do not allow the vaccination campaign to be implemented independently," Shayeq told VOA.

"They introduce their own people as vaccinators and when we accept their demands, it leads to shortcomings and the reduction of quality in our services," he added.

Shayeq said Taliban are not directly opposing the vaccination campaign, but rather making it difficult for vaccinators to do their job properly and in accordance with international standards.

Politicization of polio

Meanwhile, civil activists in the province are calling on warring sides not to politicize the crucial vaccination campaign at a time when Afghanistan has the largest number of registered polio cases in the world.

Nasim Minawal, a civil activist in Farah, told VOA the anti-polio vaccination campaign is vital to the population and it does not belong to the government or any other group.

"Polio vaccination is not a government-led program. It is a health and apolitical program. We should not politicize this important process," Minawal told VOA.

"This is an important preventive program for children. Children who are suffering from polio [because of lack or failure of vaccination] have no treatment whatsoever," he added.

Minawal called on the Taliban not to interfere with the process and allow polio workers to do their jobs properly and professionally.

Tribal leaders are also calling on influential figures in rural areas to use their influence and help implement the crucial vaccination process in their respective areas.

Hameedullah Khan, a tribal leader in Farah, views efforts to derail the vaccination process as non-Islamic and calls on community leaders to actively engage in the process and help with its implementation.

"I call on religious scholars, tribal leaders and community members not to politicize polio vaccination. They should pay attention to the well-being of their children and pave the way for them to receive the vaccination in a timely manner," Khan told VOA.

Afghan polio cases

Several polio cases have been reported across Afghanistan in 2018, particularly in the country's volatile regions.

Aghan ministry of public health statistics show there has been a decrease in the total number of polio cases, when comparing figures from 2017 to 2018. In 2017, 14 cases of polio were reported across Afghanistan. So far in 2018, there have been 10 cases.

Afghanistan's 10 cases, however, is still higher than polio cases in Pakistan and Nigeria, the other two countries in the world with reported cases of polio in recent years.

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