Polio drive kicks off in Afghanistan

Fourteen provinces in Afghanistan began seeing more than 20,000 volunteers and health workers moving door-to-door to administer two drops of the oral polio vaccine to children under the age of five on Monday.

The three-day campaign, dubbed Sub-national Immunization Days, or SNIDS, is part of a national effort by the Ministry of Public Health, which is supported in its efforts by the U.N. World Health Organization, the U.N. Children's Fund and other partners in vaccinating approximately 7.7 million children in Afghanistan by December.

"We hope that religious scholars, community representatives, parents and ordinary people will help us achieve our target to eliminate polio from the region," Dr. Rahmathullah Kamwak, the head of the WHO in the southern province of Kandahar, Afghanistan, told journalists at an inauguration ceremony. The ceremony was also attended by Dr. Abdul Qayom Pokhla, the head of the provincial public health department.

A statement released by the WHO this week revealed that 12 polio cases have been confirmed in Afghanistan this year, most of which were concentrated in the south, where fighting has limited access to vaccinations for children.

Efforts to provide polio vaccines to children in the nation's east were stymied after 13 volunteers in the campaign were abducted by anti-government forces in Kunar province. Following a security assessment, however, aid organizations continued the vaccination campaign.