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Afghanistan is one of just four countries in the world still affected by the virus. Two months ago, Egypt was declared polio-free after successful immunization efforts.“Polio immunization is an essential way of safeguarding children’s health, and preventing this crippling disease from affecting their lives,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) country representative Bernt Aasen said, urging families in 11 targeted provinces to look out for vaccination teams and make their children available.More than 15,000 health workers are due to travel house to house in the provinces in southern, south-eastern and eastern Afghanistan in the campaign, led by the Afghan Health Ministry and supported by UNICEF and the UN World Health Organization (WHO).This mobile approach is essential in ensuring that every child in the target group is reached, with many families unable to access fixed health centres in rural parts of Afghanistan. Some 2.8 million doses of the oral polio vaccine are required for the campaign, which is being funded by donors including the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Rotary International.“Unless we eradicate polio in Afghanistan, the virus will continue to threaten development, disabling children, placing greater strains upon families, and adding to the pressure on national health resources. Polio is not just a health issue – it has implications for economic and social development as well,” Mr. Aasen said.“All over the world we are winning the battle against polio, as the success of Egypt has demonstrated. If families play their part in presenting children under five for vaccination, and support their local health teams in identifying eligible children, and if community leaders help to spread the word that immunization is in everyone’s interests, then Afghanistan too can also soon become polio-free.”With more than 600 Afghan children under the age of five estimated to die each day from mostly preventable diseases, UNICEF is also calling on donors to help the Government to improve routine immunization coverage, which is estimated to be less than 60 per cent.The systematic immunization of children against a range of potential diseases, not just polio but including measles, diphtheria, whooping cough and tuberculosis, is essential to long term improvements in child health, and the reduction in child mortality.In another development, a just completed joint assessment by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on economic and social rights has found that half of those interviewed did not have access to safe drinking water, 40.6 percent had problems with the habitability of their homes, and in one-in-five families all the children worked. read more