Afghanistan committed to eradicating polio: Feroz
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): The Afghan government is ‘passionately committed’ to eradicating polio from the country, a top Afghan health official said Thursday.
The public health minister acknowledged insecurity, inaccessibility and unacceptability posed major hurdles to address the challenge of polio eradication effort.
Noting that six polio cases have been detected so far in Afghanistan, Feroz said the Afghan government was working on a strategy to contain the virus.
At the same time, he said, insurgents were not letting health workers to reach certain parts of the county. “Then there is also false believe that polio is a non-Islamic thing,” the minister said in response to a question at the Wilson Center, a top American think-tank.
In addition to working on a community program, Feroz said the Afghan government has engaged religious leaders to talk about the acceptability of polio drops. “I am sure with these efforts, we would not only be able to contain polio, but also eradicate it,” the minister said.
The event at Wilson Center was held to release results of the first-ever Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the international “gold standard” assessment tool used by over 90 countries to evaluate a population’s health and disseminate nationally representative data on fertility, family planning, maternal and child health, gender, HIV/AIDs, and nutrition.
Referring to the survey results, Feroz said there has been considerable progress in the health sector and significant improvement in various health parameters including child and women mortality. At the same time, he acknowledged there is a long way to go.
Afghanistan’s health sector, he said, is heavily dependent on donor countries and out of pocket payment by Afghan population.
“We are not sure that (foreign) financial assistance would continue any longer. Therefore the Afghan Government is working on generating its own resources,” he said and listed out a proposed tax on tobacco products as one such example.
The introduction of tax on tobacco products, Feroz said is estimated to generate a revenue of USD 30 million per annum.
The Afghan government is also planning to introduce various social security including health insurance as a pilot projects in Afghanistan, he said.
“There is substantial improvement in maternal health…., vaccination coverage has increased,” he said adding that these progress have been made through high level commitment, scaling up of cost effective and live savings
Despite these progress, Afghanistan faces many challenges, including insecurity and inaccessibility and dependence on external assistance. “We are in the process of developing national strategy for next five year,” Feroz said.
Participating the panel discussion, Sayed Alam Shinwari, president of the Afghan Medical Professionals Association of America said only 30 percent of the work has been accomplished in the country’s health sector, and 70 percent of the work is still left.
“It required contributions from everyone. As we supported the country in last decade, let’s support Afghanistan in the next 15 years to make Afghanistan self-sufficient in the health sector,” Dr Shinwari said.
Reiterating that the US is committed to support Afghanistan in the long term, Larry Sampler, Assistant to the Administrator for the Office for Afghanistan and Pakistan at USAID, said that the country need for a healthy population of the country.
The US strategy, he asserted, is aimed at helping the Afghan Government providing quality health care to the people of Afghanistan. The survey demonstrates how far the Afghan public health sector has gone and how far it has to go, Sampler said.
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