Taliban lifts ban on polio vaccinations. WHO: Positive news
This year 16 children contracted the virus that affects the spinal cord. The militants accused health workers of being in the pay of Western democracies, with the aim of sterilizing Muslim children.
Kabul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomes the decision by the Taliban to allow its health workers engaged in polio vaccination to return to Afghanistan. In April, armed militias had imposed a ban on all the medical activities of both the WHO and the International Red Cross, accusing them of "suspicious activity". For them, the campaign against the virus that causes total paralysis was "a Western conspiracy with the aim of sterilizing Muslim children".
"We welcome this announcement as a step in the right direction and, with partners, will start health facility-based campaigns in the previously banned areas," Richard Peeperkorn, an Afghanistan representative for the WHO, said yesterday."However, we are concerned that following this long pause in vaccination, more children have become vulnerable to poliovirus, and we will see more Afghan children paralysed".
Afghanistan is one of the three countries in the world where the polio virus is still endemic, in addition to Pakistan and Nigeria. According to the UN organization, this year at least 16 children have contracted the disease that destroys the cells of the central nervous system, causing paralysis.
Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, assured that all health workers will be safe and set the conditions for their return: they will perform "medical work only"; they will have to ask for permission from insurgent groups before hiring employees; they will be able to conduct vaccination campaigns only in health centers, and not house by house in the villages as in the past.