Afghanistan detects fourth polio case in 2023

Kabul, June 2 (EFE).- The Afghan health ministry has registered a new case of polio infection in eastern Afghanistan, bringing the number of such infections to four so far in 2023, compared to only two such cases being detected in 2022.

The Wild Polio-Virus type-1 (WPV1) case was detected in a four-year-old child, who displayed onset of paralysis on May 16 in the Bihsud district of the eastern Nangarhar province, the ministry said in a statement on Friday.

The previous three infections were also registered over the past month in Nangarhar’s Nazyan, Bati-Kot and Kot districts.

“Nangarhar, along with the entire eastern region of the country, is facing a significant polio threat due to previous instances of environmental polio cases and confirmed presence of the virus in contaminated water and polluted surroundings,” the ministry said.

Nek Wali Shah Momin, director of Afghanistan’s National Emergency Operation Center for Polio Eradication, said that lack of access to basic health services, poor hygiene measures and malnutrition were contributing to transmission of the virus in eastern Afghanistan.

“Vaccination alone is not enough, (…) without access to (relevant health and hygiene) services, it becomes challenging to prevent the spread of polio in these regions,” he said.

In light of fresh cases being reported, the ministry has announced that it would carry out additional vaccination campaigns in affected areas.

According to the May 15 announcement, the government, in collaboration with international agencies, would seek immunize 6.4 million children, under five, in 217 districts of 23 Afghan provinces.

Afghanistan conducted 12 nationwide and sub-national vaccination campaigns in 2022, among the highest in the world.

Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the only two countries in the world where polio is endemic.

Before Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, successive polio campaigns had been limited by the conflict and the fundamentalists’ restrictions on vaccinations in the areas under their control.

However, vaccination campaigns have gained momentum in the country over the past years.

“A polio-free Afghanistan is within reach,” the World Health Organization said in August. EFE


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