rain.png
Saturday April 10th, 2021 3:21PM

Afghans work to stem polio rise amid violence, pandemic

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan is trying to inoculate millions of children against polio after pandemic lockdowns stalled the effort to eradicate the crippling disease. But the recent killing of three vaccinators points to the dangers facing the campaign as turmoil grows in the country.

The three women were gunned down in two separate attacks on March 30 as they carried out door-to-door vaccinations in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

It was the first time that vaccination workers have been killed in a decade of door-to-door inoculations against the children’s disease in Afghanistan. Such attacks have been more common in neighboring Pakistan, where at least 70 vaccinators and security personnel connected to vaccination campaigns have been killed since 2011.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two countries in the world where polio is still endemic, and both have seen a disturbing increase in cases in recent years. In Afghanistan, 56 new cases were reported in 2020, the highest number since 2011, when 80 cases were registered.

Adela Mohammadi, a 21-year-old vaccinator worker in Kabul, said her parents didn’t want her to go out to do inoculations on the day after the three women were killed in Jalalabad.

“I went, but with a lot of worry,” she told The Associated Press. “I was thinking what if someone was waiting for us and suddenly started shooting at us.”

“But at the end of the day, I love my job — I serve my people, especially children,” she said. “Such attacks can’t stop us from what we are doing.”

In Pakistan, officials have struggled to overcome deep public suspicion over vaccines particularly since the U.S. used a fake vaccination campaign to unearth the hideout of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Hard-line clerics and militants have stoked the fears by depicting polio vaccinations as a Western plot to sterilize Muslim children.

In Afghanistan, some have also been suspicious of vaccinations, but that rarely if ever translated into violence. The new killings appear to reflect the disturbing rise in chaos in the past year, when the country has seen increasing targeted killings, sometimes of professionals or civil society figures, sometimes just seemingly at random.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for some of the violence. But the perpetrators of many attacks remain unknown, including the killings of the vaccination workers.

The violence adds a new worry as Afghanistan struggles to stamp out a disease that has largely been eliminated around the world. In children, polio can cause partial paralysis. Since 2010, the country has been carrying out regular inoculation campaigns in which workers go door to door, giving the vaccine to children. Most of the workers are women, since they can get better access to mothers and children.

Last year, authorities had to call off four planned inoculation rounds because of lockdowns against the coronavirus pandemic, though they did manage to conduct two rounds.

Authorities say nearly 10 million children are now in need of vaccination against polio. Of those, authorities are unable to reach some 3 million children living in areas under the control of Taliban insurgents. One round of inoculations was carried out earlier this year, and a second was launched March 29 — and continued despite the killings the next day. During the four-day second round, more than 6 million children were vaccinated, according to Health Ministry spokesman Ghulam Dastagir Nazari.

In Afghanistan’s deeply conservative society, traumatized by decades of war, some are suspicious, viewing inoculations as a Western trick.

Mohammadi has been participating in door-to-door campaigns the past three years. She works in somewhat better educated parts of the capital, and most families she approaches allow their children to be given a dose. Public worries over the coronavirus and eagerness for treatment have made some more open to polio vaccinations, she said.

Still, she regularly faces sometimes angry resistance from some families who claim vaccines are forbidden by religion or harm children. “There are families who don’t even open their gates for us, they just shout, if we don’t leave, they will come out and beat us,” she said.

The continued impact of polio can be seen at the International Committee of the Red Cross’ Orthopedic Program in Afghanistan. It mainly provides artificial legs to the many wounded in war or by roadside bombs or mines. But it also offers services to anyone with mobility issues — including people affected by polio.

In 2020, nearly 5,000 polio patients received treatment at the program, including physiotherapy, medical equipment and orthopedic devices.

Maiwa Gul, 35, a polio patient from eastern Khost province, was at the center on a recent day getting repairs to the leg prostheses that he needs to walk. He urged that all children be vaccinated. “Otherwise, they will eventually be in my position, needing someone to help them," he said.

Merjan Rasekh, head of public awareness at the Health Ministry’s Polio Eradication Program, said the killing of the three vaccinators was “painful.”

“If this situation continues, it would definitely have a negative impact on the morale of our health workers,” he said.

But the young women at the forefront of the vaccination drive said it must continue.

“If we are afraid and don’t go out to vaccinate, our children and all of us will face problems,” said 22-year-old Shabana Maani.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Health, AP Health - Children's Health
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Afghans work to stem polio rise amid violence, pandemic
Afghanistan is inoculating millions of children against polio after pandemic lockdowns stalled the effort to eradicate the crippling disease
2:08AM ( 5 minutes ago )
The Latest: S Korea to decide on AZ shots for 60 and younger
Health officials in South Korea say they will decide whether to resume administrating AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccines to people 60 and younger over the weekend
1:41AM ( 33 minutes ago )
Nepal’s God of Sight eye doctor to expand work beyond border
Nepal’s “God of Sight” eye doctor renowned for his innovative and inexpensive cataract surgery for the poor is taking his work beyond the Himalayan mountains so there is no more unnecessary blindness in the world
1:33AM ( 41 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Interior secretary steps into Utah public lands tug-of-war
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland will visit Utah this week before submitting a review on national monuments in the state
12:09AM ( 2 hours ago )
Inside secret Syria talks aimed at freeing American hostages
Talks between U.S. and Syrian officials last summer over the fate of journalist Austin Tice and other American hostages foundered over conditions laid out by Damascus and because of a lack of meaningful information provided on the fate of Tice
12:07AM ( 2 hours ago )
China warns Washington not to boycott Winter Olympics
China’s government has warned Washington not to boycott next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing after the Biden administration said it was talking with allies about a joint approach to complaints of human rights abuses
11:05PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP National News
Texas investigating abuse allegations at migrant facility
Texas child welfare officials say they've received three reports of abuse and neglect at a San Antonio coliseum that is holding more than 1,600 immigrant teenagers who crossed the southern border
10:40PM ( 3 hours ago )
Biden open to compromise on infrastructure, but not inaction
President Joe Biden is drawing a red line on his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan
9:07PM ( 5 hours ago )
Virginia becomes first Southern state to legalize marijuana
Virginia has become the first Southern state to legalize marijuana
8:22PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online National News
The Latest: 11 new COVID-19 cases in China's lone outbreak
Chinese officials say 11 more people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in a southwestern city bordering Myanmar that is the scene of China’s current sole active outbreak
10:33PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Spread of coronavirus ramping up in South Korea
South Korea has reported 700 more cases of the coronavirus as the speed of viral spread approaches levels seen during the worst of the country's outbreak in winter
9:34PM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: Puerto Rico to vaccinate anyone 16 and older
Puerto Rico’s governor says officials will start vaccinating all those 16 years and older beginning Monday, prompting celebrations across a U.S. territory facing a spike in coronavirus cases
7:14PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Health
EU agency: Rare clots possibly linked to AstraZeneca shot
The European Union drug regulator says that it found a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine and a rare clotting disorder
10:49AM ( 15 hours ago )
UK agency: Under-30s to be offered non-AstraZeneca vaccine
The United Kingdom’s drug regulator says the AstraZeneca vaccine has huge benefits but people under 30 will be offered another product due to a rare blood clot risk
10:33AM ( 15 hours ago )
Agency: Possible link between AstraZeneca shot, rare clots
The EU’s drug regulator says it has found a “possible link” between the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine and a rare clotting disorder but said that the benefits of the shot still outweigh risks
10:06AM ( 16 hours ago )
AP Health - Children's Health
The Latest: S Korea to decide on AZ shots for 60 and younger
Health officials in South Korea say they will decide whether to resume administrating AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccines to people 60 and younger over the weekend
1:41AM ( 33 minutes ago )
Nepal’s God of Sight eye doctor to expand work beyond border
Nepal’s “God of Sight” eye doctor renowned for his innovative and inexpensive cataract surgery for the poor is taking his work beyond the Himalayan mountains so there is no more unnecessary blindness in the world
1:33AM ( 41 minutes ago )
Booker, Paul lead Suns to 117-113 OT win over Jazz
Devin Booker scored 35 points, Chris Paul added 29 and the Phoenix Suns beat the Utah Jazz 117-113 in overtime Wednesday night in an entertaining matchup between the top two teams in the NBA
1:02AM ( 1 hour ago )
Asia Today: Modi gets 2nd vaccine dose as India hits record
India’s leader received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as the country hit another peak with 126,789 new cases
1:01AM ( 1 hour ago )
Holocaust survivors harness social media to spread knowledge
Alarmed by the rise of online anti-Semitism in the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with studies indicating younger generations lack even basic knowledge of the Nazi genocide, Holocaust survivors are taking to social media to share their experience of how hate speech paved the way for mass murder
12:37AM ( 1 hour ago )