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Polio campaign in Afghan border areas a success

Polio immunisation campaign underway.
Fakhrinisso Kurbonshoeva/IRIN

A three-day polio vaccination campaign targeting about 300,000 children below three years of age in Tajikistan’s districts bordering Afghanistan was a success, officials said.

Supported by UNICEF, with vaccine procurement, and the World Health Organization (WHO), with technical and financial support, the campaign covered 26 districts bordering Afghanistan and ended on Wednesday.

“Polio vaccinations are conducted each year in Tajikistan districts bordering nearby Afghanistan, where polio is endemic. Every year, till the danger of getting polio from neighbouring countries is removed, polio campaigns will be conducted in the country,” said Sabir Kurbanov, health programme officer with the United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF).

Shamsiddin Jabirov, director of the immunisation and prevention centre at Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health of (MoH), said that they were continuing to vaccinate children against polio although Tajikistan was certified as a polio-free country in 2002.

“Especially now, when there is an acute form of polio in Afghanistan, there is a need to conduct polio campaigns on both sides [of the border] simultaneously. The polio campaign will be conducted in two rounds; now and a month later,” Jabirov said.

But rugged terrain has proved to be a challenge for vaccinators trying to reach some of the communities, particularly those in isolated villages in remote areas, officials say. Children residing in these areas are often not vaccinated on time.

Another problem that has been somewhat overcome is the limited number of health workers in remote districts. The health ministry initiated the idea of using mobile teams equipped with primary health care staff, vaccines and cold chain equipment. The teams travel from one village to another in a bid not to leave a single child out. Other children are vaccinated at existing rural medical facilities.

This year’s polio immunisation campaign in Tajikistan has been well planned, specialists say, and included a week-long awareness-raising campaign just before it aimed at increasing the vaccination rate.

Kurbanov of UNICEF said such sub-national immunisation drives were a good opportunity to reach out to those children not vaccinated during routine immunisation rounds.

fk/at/ar/ed

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