Afghanistan-Pakistan shelters boost end-polio effort
Afghan health workers gear up to vaccinate children at the temporary immunization shelter on the country's border with Pakistan. Photo courtesy of Aziz Memon
Among the most difficult children to reach in the push to eradicate polio are those of migrant families crossing the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
"Children who cross the border miss out on the NIDs [National Immunization Days] on both sides," says Pakistan PolioPlus Committee Chair Aziz Memon. "In the heat and desert, there is no way we can give them polio drops while crossing borders."
To help ensure that migrant children are protected against the disease, temporary shelters, one on each side of the Torkham border crossing, have been established as immunization sites. The air-conditioned shelters, funded by a US$13,858 PolioPlus Partners grant, were converted from portable storage containers and are equipped with sanitation facilities and a freezer for storing oral polio vaccine.
The Pakistan PolioPlus Committee coordinated the design, manufacture, delivery, and installation of the shelters, which can be moved when they are no longer needed.
The shelters help reinforce the drive to end polio in Afghanistan and Pakistan, two of the world's four remaining polio-endemic countries. Momentum for the drive's success continues to build. Almost 1.2 million Afghan children were immunized on 21 September, the International Day of Peace. Coordinated NIDs are planned for both countries in October and November.
"This is better than any immunization round in Afghanistan in the past 18 months," says World Health Organization country representative Peter Graaff about the International Day of Peace effort. "We are quite excited, as such high coverage gives us a better chance than ever to get rid of polio."
Afghan Public Health Minister Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatimie agrees that the effort, which involved 14,000 health workers and volunteers, was a great success.
"A campaign like this, whether on a national or subnational level, is very important, " Fatimie says. "It promotes peace and stability in the country. Day-to-day coverage is increasing in troubled provinces, and it is bringing us closer to our goal of a polio-free Afghanistan."
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