Two female social mobilizers walk past the cemetery on their way to start their polio mobilising work in the suburbs of Kandahar.
Female polio front-line workers hold the key to eradicating polio from Afghanistan. Able to speak woman to woman; they convince mothers to vaccinate their children. They are 12% of Afghanistan’s campaign workers.
In socially conservative communities where polio still persists today, cultural norms often do not allow male vaccinators to enter a home, or even communicate with women on the doorstep.
Newborns, children who are sick or sleeping are often missed.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) that aims to Eradicate Poliomyelitis, a crippling disease effecting children has now entered its most critical and hopefully the final phase. The impressive success of the initiative including reduction in the number of cases from 350,000 in 1988 to less than 223 in 2012 and in number of endemic countries from over 125 in 1988 to just three by end 2012 is commendable. The success of the Global PEI, which was launched in 1988, depends now on interruption of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) circulation in the last three endemic countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Following years of decline and stagnation in the number of cases with just 25 case reported in 2010, Afghanistan had a major outbreak in 2011 which brought home the need to scale up steps to improve campaign quality and to get Afghans from all walks of life involved in contributing to this national cause.
The 2011 out break resulted in 80 cases from all regions of the country and over 30 districts. In 2012, 30 cases were reported and in 2013 to date only 3 cases have been reported so far.??
Historically, South region is the only region of the country to have never succeeded in interrupting virus circulation and has always had the highest burden of cases with between 70 to 85 percent of all cases reported in the last decade reported from this region. Although the region has not reported any case since November 2012 it is too soon to start celebrating.?All 3 cases reported in Afghanistan in 2013 have been reported from the East region - 2 from Nangarhar province and 1 from Kunar.