UN helps Afghan government workers carry out polio drive

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United Nations, Sep 20 (UNI) UN agencies have teamed up with government health workers to carry out a polio immunization drive in insurgency-affected areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan.

The move comes just days before the end of a nine-week campaign aimed at achieving an end to violence in the strife-torn nation on September 21 -- the International Day of Peace.

The three-day immunization drive aims to take advantage of the opportunity created by Peace Day campaign for accessing children in need.

The Peace campaign began on July 19, when the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan joined hands with Jeremy Gilley, founder of Peace One Day, actor Jude Law and the UN Children's Fund to promote the International Day of Peace marked each year on September 21.

''We call again upon the entire community, every woman, man and child, to genuinely support in whatever way they can this effort for a real Peace Day in Afghanistan,'' UN Deputy Special Representative Bo Asplund said yesterday, adding ''To save even a single life is a success.'' Afghanistan is one of the four countries--the other three being India, Nigeria and Pakistan -- that still suffer from endemic polio.

Many districts in the southern part of the country have been missed in previous polio immunization drives because of the security concerns.

According to UNICEF and the World Health Organization, five children have been paralyzed due to polio in recent weeks, which is a preventable disease.

Meanwhile, in the run-up to Peace Day, UNICEF and UNESCO have urged that children and teachers at schools and literacy centres across the country be protected from all acts of violence.

The education programmes serving over 6 million children and the UN joint literacy programme for 120,000 people in Afghanistan are the "Keys to empowerment of every Afghan child and family and necessary steps towards peace-building in a country that has experienced over two decades of conflict," the two agencies said in a statement.

Security threats to schools, students and teachers in Afghanistan have risen in recent months, adversely affecting already fragile education sysytem of the country.

More than 30 attacks against schools, many involving the torching or blowing up of school premises, have been reported in all parts of the country in the first half of this year. In addition, deliberate attacks on girls and female teachers have resulted in at least four deaths and six injuries in the same period.

The UN will also mark Peace Day by declaring the Saighan district of Afghanistan's Bamiyan province a Peace District on Friday. As many as 70 different sorts of weapons and ammunitions are expected to be surrendered by some 13 commanders of local armed groups of the province, under Afghanistan New Beginnings Programme (ANBP) The ANBP is a project of the UN Development Programme that was created in April 2003 to assist the Afghan Government in implementing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.


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