Afghan military conflict risk for global spread of poliovirus: WHO

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 23

With the civil war in Afghanistan escalating and people moving across borders, the World Health Organisation’s expert committee on polio has warned member nations of the risk of international spread of polio virus and called for coordinated global response.

Panel calls for int’l response

  • The Emergency Committee under International Health Regulations, 2005, calls for coordinated international response to meet the challenge on poliovirus
  • Says over 3 million Afghan children were missed in national immunisation day rounds since October last
  • Wild poliovirus 1 is currently endemic only to Afghanistan and Pakistan. India stopped it in January 2011

The Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations, 2005, after its 29th meeting on the international spread of poliovirus, commended the progress made, but said there was no room for complacency.

“The ongoing inaccessibility in many provinces of Afghanistan coupled with increasing military conflict remains a major risk. Around three million children were persistently missed in 2020 and 2021 so far, with around one million children in southern Afghanistan missing out on vaccination for almost three years. The cohort of missed children continues to grow,” the committee said.

It unanimously agreed that risks of international spread of poliovirus remained a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and extended its recommendations to member nations for three more months.

Globally, wild poliovirus types 1 and 2 were certified as eradicated after 2012. As of 2020, wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV 1) affects only Pakistan and Afghanistan. India stopped wild polio transmission in January 2011.

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