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Taliban hampering Afghan polio vaccination: health officials

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KABUL, March 11, 2008 (AFP) – Taliban-linked unrest has hampered a polio vaccination drive in Afghanistan where four more cases of the crippling disease were recorded this year, health officials said Tuesday.

A three-day campaign ended Tuesday to administer vaccines against the disease — wiped out from all but four countries — to about 6.9 million children in most parts of the country.

It was disrupted in several districts of the southern province of Helmand, including hotspots Musa Qala and Kajaki, by fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces, health ministry spokesman Abdullah Fahim told AFP.

In other districts vaccinators were not able to secure permission from local elders to work, he said. These included districts under Taliban influence.

“Taliban have prevented our vaccinators from carrying out the campaign in three districts,” said the public health director for Helmand, Anayatullah Ghafari.

“Our locals vaccinators with the help of tribal elders are trying to talk with Taliban to let them carry out the vaccination campaign,” he said.

Helmand sees some of the worst of an insurgency launched by the extremist Taliban movement soon after it was driven out of government in a US-led campaign in late 2001.

The government admits the rebels control a handful of districts in the province.

Two of the four new cases of polio in Afghanistan this year were Helmand, with the others in Kandahar and in Farah — also in the south, Fahim said. There were 17 new cases in 2007 and 31 in 2006.

A spokesman for the Taliban, Zahihullah Mujahid, dismissed allegations that his group was preventing inoculation, saying vaccinators who were not local were “scared.”

“We have told them they can come to our areas and run the vaccination campaign. The fact is they are scared … we tell them to hire locals to carry out the campaign,” he told AFP by telephone.

Polio remains endemic only in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nigeria.

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Written by afghandevnews

March 11, 2008 at 11:52 pm

Posted in Health, Security

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