KABUL, March 28 (Xinhua) — Afghanistan’s massive anti-polio campaign reportedly hit snags in areas were anti-government militants including Taliban and Islamic State (IS) groups are active, as campaign centers were attacked by militants over the weekend.
Unknown armed men set on fire an anti-polio center in Chardehi area of Batikot district in the eastern Nangarhar province on Sunday night, destroying all the equipments and arrangements set for the campaign there, a statement of provincial government said.
Although no group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack, militants loyal to the hardliner IS and Taliban outfits are active in parts of the relatively troubled Batikot district along the border with Pakistan’s tribal areas.
To eradicate the crippling polio disease in the insurgency-battered country, Afghanistan’s Public Health Ministry, with the support of World Health Organization and UNICEF, launched a nationwide five-day spring campaign on Monday to give immunity doze to 8.8 million children under the age of five.
In spite of tireless drive over the past more than three decades by successive governments to eradicate polio from Afghanistan, two cases of polio have been reported in 2017, Public Health Ministry confirmed in a statement released on Sunday.
The two polio cases have been reported in the militancy-hit areas of Helmand and the neighboring Kandahar province.
Afghanistan and its neighbor Pakistan are the only two countries in the world that still remained with the polio epidemic.
According to media reports, in unsafe areas where anti-government insurgents are operating, children suffer from polio and the vaccinators are reluctant to serve there.
To make the anti-polio drive succeed, Afghan government is also seeking the support of Ulema or religious scholars to encourage people to take their children to vaccination centers.
Afghan Minister for Public Health Ferozuddin Feroz in his message ahead of kicking off the anti-polio drive described the campaign as “a political drive” and called upon warring sides to facilitate vaccinators to reach each corner of the country and help to make a polio-free Afghanistan.