Taliban agree to new polio vaccination across Afghanistan

Afghanistan-Polio Campaign

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) — U.N. agencies are gearing up to vaccinate all of Afghanistan’s children under 5 against polio for the first time since 2018, after the Taliban agreed to the campaign, the World Health Organization says.

For the past three years, the Taliban barred U.N.-organized vaccination teams from doing door-to-door campaigns in parts of Afghanistan under their control, apparently out of suspicion they could be spies for the government or the West. Because of the ban and ongoing fighting, some 3.3 million children over the past three years have not been vaccinated.

The Taliban’s reported agreement now, after becoming the rulers of Afghanistan, appeared aimed at showing they are willing to cooperate with international agencies. The longtime militant insurgent force has been trying to win the world’s recognition of its new government and re-open the door for international aid to rescue the crumbling economy.

The Taliban leadership did not confirm its agreement, and Taliban officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But WHO and the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said in a statement Monday that they welcomed the decision by the Taliban leadership supporting the resumption of house-to-house polio vaccinations across the country.

Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the only countries in the world where polio remains endemic. The disease can cause partial paralysis in children. Since 2010, the country has been carrying out regular inoculation campaigns in which workers go door to door, giving the vaccine to children. Most of the workers are women, since they can get better access to mothers and children.

But large sections of the country