Sunday 18 August 2019

Taliban blocks polio vaccination campaign


(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Ben Farmer

Taliban commanders have banned health workers, including polio vaccinators, from swathes of Afghanistan after accusing them of collecting intelligence used to target militant leaders.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Red Cross have been blocked from operating in areas under their control. They allege health workers collect information used to find and kill Taliban leaders in special forces raids and air strikes.

More than 180,000 children have gone without polio vaccinations in parts of southern Afghanistan in the past two months because of the ban, which comes as health officials fear the eradication campaign is stalling.

Afghanistan is one of only three countries still harbouring the crippling virus, alongside neighbouring Pakistan, and Nigeria.

The WHO is negotiating to try to regain access. Sources said Taliban commanders had been unsettled by the accuracy of an Afghan and US military campaign to kill senior fighters. Several had resorted to blaming vaccination programmes.

"[Taliban opponents] are hoping the embarrassment factor of the rising number of [polio] cases will have an effect on them.

"Also they will see air strikes are continuing even though there are no vaccinators out there," said one source.

Irish Independent

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