Taliban threats delay polio vaccinations in Zabul
The campaign has been delayed in all of the province’s 14 districts, except for Qalat city, the provincial capital, the director of the public health department, Dr. Syed Solaiman Safi, told Pajhwok Afghan News.
The campaign for children under 5 years old started nationwide on Saturday, but the Taliban had warned that it would not allow children in Zabul to be vaccinated, he said.
He urged the insurgents to allow children to receive the vaccine, which he said had no political or military purpose other than preventing children from getting polio.
The regional office in Kandahar had been alerted to the problem and instructed them to delay the process, said Dr. Adam Khan, who is head of vaccines at the World Health Organisation in the province.
"The regional office may talk with the Taliban and we will wait for the result," he said.
If the campaign did not happen in Zabul, 115,000 children would be deprived of the vaccine, he said.
It is the first time that the campaign has been stopped in all districts of Zabul, a resident of Atghar district, Gul Ahmad, said.
He said the Taliban in Zabul should allow the campaign as insurgents in other provinces had not objected to it.
Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, said they worked for the health of Afghan people, and that the health workers should be allowed to continue their campaign.
He said that if foreign and Afghan forces accompanied vaccinators, the Taliban would oppose the military presence.
Safi denied the health workers were accompanied by security forces.
"Our vaccinators are ordinary people. We asked all military groups not to create problems for the workers, because doctors only struggle to save lives," he said.
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