About three months ago, Ahmad Zia’s family noticed that the boy of 2 was unable to move his legs.
Despite their concern, they were unable to take him to a doctor because of the fighting between Taliban militants and government forces in their district of Arghandab, in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.
“For days on end there would be heavy fighting taking place here. There were regular bombings, air strikes, gunfire … and anything else you can name. The situation was very tense,” Ahmad Gul, an uncle, said.
“The clinics in the district were also closed due to the fighting.”
When they finally managed to take the child to the Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar city, doctors told them the child had contracted polio, a crippling disease that has been eradicated from most countries but continues to be found in Afghanistan and Pakistan because of a lack of immunisation.
“Ahmad Zia was not vaccinated because we didn’t have access to doctors or clinics in Arghandab, and the vaccination team couldn’t get to us because of the security situation. Now our kid is affected for no fault of his,” Mr Gul said.
After years of progress in tackling the spread of polio, Afghanistan has seen a drastic surge in cases in the past two years, corresponding with the rise in violence and the global pandemic, both of which affected immunisation efforts.
Now that fighting has subsided after the Taliban seized power in August, the World Health Organisation and UN children’s fund Unicef are hopeful of extending polio immunisation efforts to areas that were previously unreachable.
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