Afghanistan: Over 300,000 immunised against tetanus, measles in Kabul

KABUL, 4 June 2007 (IRIN) - Over 300,000 mothers, 15-50 years old, and a similar number of children between nine months and five years of age, have been successfully vaccinated against tetanus and measles in Kabul, the country's Ministry of Public Health has announced.

Part of larger efforts launched on 20 May in 12 provinces, the six-day campaign was later extended until 2 June in Kabul in a further effort to reach a targeted number of women and children.

"There were some logistical shortcomings, coupled with shortages of professional staff that demanded the drive's extension," Dr Bismillah Aziz, a World Health Organization (WHO) official in Afghanistan, explained.

According to preliminary results, 60-70 percent of eligible women were vaccinated against tetanus, while up to 85 percent of children were vaccinated against measles, Aziz added.

Some 3,500 medical staff conducted the final round of the national campaign in door-to-door visits and at community centres such as mosques, a WHO press release read.

Unexpected refusals

The UN had sought media assistance to bolster public information efforts and encourage parents to vaccinate eligible women and children after vaccinators faced unexpected refusals from many Afghan families in Kabul.

"Some women do not know about the advantages of these vaccines to their own and their children's health and safety which caused a kind of negligence towards this campaign," Abdullah Fahim, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Health, said.

But despite the refusals, Kabul was still being viewed as a success amongst the 34 provinces of the country, where vaccination campaigns have often been plagued by problems.


"In the tetanus and measles immunisation campaign conducted in Helmand three months ago, only 50 percent of eligible mothers and 85 percent of children were vaccinated," Mohammad Qaseem, an official of the southern province's public health department, said.

"Afghan women, particularly in rural areas, suffer a series of socio-traditional restrictions in appearing before male doctors. We could not find adequate female vaccinators in order to reach all the women in Helmand," Qaseem conceded.


In the neighbouring province of Kandahar, the vaccination effort reached only 55 percent of women and 75 percent of children, according to provincial health officials.

"Insecurity, a lack of public information, a shortage of professional medical personnel and harmful propaganda by insurgents are the problems that have affected our efforts in some parts of the country," the Ministry of Health spokesman said.

In the volatile southern provinces of the country, Taliban insurgents have repeatedly attacked health facilities and even kidnapped health workers, thus impeding the delivery of health services to many rural communities.