By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) - A nationwide three-day polio vaccination drive kicked off in Afghanistan on Monday in an effort to vaccinate millions of children in high-risk areas.
Along with Pakistan and Nigeria, Afghanistan is one of the three remaining countries where polio is endemic.
According to the officials at the country’s Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), more than six million children in the southern and southeastern provinces bordering Pakistan are at risk of contracting polio.
Maiwand Ahmadzai, director of the ministry's polio eradication program told Anadolu Agency that a comprehensive plan worth some $60 million had been designed to vaccinate up to 9.5 million children in 2017.
"Our primary focus is on high-risk areas, and we will strive to ensure the elimination of the polio virus from the country", he said.
According to the MoPH, only 13 cases of polio were recorded at the beginning of 2016 in Paktia, Helmand, Kunar and Kandahar provinces. However, in the past 6 months, no such case has been registered in the country.
On Sunday, Melisa Corkum, program communication specialist at UNICEF Afghanistan, told journalists in Kabul that the country was very close to eradicating the disease, urging citizens to cooperate with health workers.