Vaccination Campaign Addressing Polio in Afghanistan Under Challenging Conditions

Health workers vaccinating children against polio in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in September. The district of Shahwalikot in Kandahar Province has had four of the world’s 17 new polio cases this year. Credit Muhammad Sadiq/EFE, via European Pressphoto Agency /

Four of the twenty polio cases worldwide this year occurred in Shahwalikot, a district in southern Afghanistan largely controlled by the Taliban. A new vaccination campaign began recently in the area, after pleas from United Nations officials for cooperation from both sides of the conflict. Vaccinators are going door to door, village to village, hoping to vaccinate all children in 28 zones in the region. UN officials are concerned after another wild poliovirus case was found recently, and believe hundreds of thousands of Afghan children are at risk.

The vaccination campaign is facing challenges from both the Taliban and government forces. The Taliban restricted access to many of the vaccination zones, and they have insisted vaccinators be hired from areas in Taliban control. The Taliban also prohibits vaccinators from traveling with security forces. Government forces have also complicated vaccination efforts by raiding vaccination clinics, claiming insurgents are being treated. Vaccinators hope to complete the campaign soon to prevent further disease outbreak. Read the New York Times’ coverage of the issue here.