A nationwide vaccination campaign against the poliovirus has begun in Afghanistan. As the Taliban-run Ministry of Health announced, almost eleven million children are to be vaccinated against the disease, also known as polio. The campaign would be carried out in 31 of the country’s 34 provinces within four days. In the remaining three provinces, the campaign was postponed to a later date due to cold and heavy rain.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned last December that the return of hundreds of thousands of Afghans after mass deportations from neighboring Pakistan increased the risk of the virus spreading.

Polio is a contagious infectious disease that can cause permanent paralysis and death, especially in small children. The virus is often spread through contaminated water. There is currently no cure. The disease has been eradicated through vaccination campaigns in most countries around the world. Afghanistan is one of the few countries where diseases caused by the wild type of the pathogen still occur regularly.

In the past, vaccination teams in Afghanistan have repeatedly been attacked. Extremists also spread conspiracy theories about alleged side effects. Before they came to power again in August 2021, the Islamist Taliban had banned vaccinations in areas they controlled. However, the United Nations (UN) successfully negotiated a resumption of the vaccination program.