New York: The Taliban insurgency should stop preventing mobile polio vaccination teams from operating in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
Since as early as February, the Taliban have prohibited the Afghan health ministry from deploying mobile vaccination teams in the province, increasing the vulnerability of children to infection, death or long-term disability.
In a July 7 statement, the Taliban accused the mobile teams of unspecified “spying” activities.
Mobile vaccination teams have operated in Afghanistan since before 2001, and up until recently the Taliban has allowed the vaccinations to proceed in areas under its control.
“The Taliban prohibition on mobile polio vaccination teams puts children at risk, and jeopardizes a global eradication campaign, of a disease that has crippled and killed millions of people,” said Phelim Kine of Human Rights Watch.
“The Taliban should assist the operations of mobile vaccination teams rather than interfere with their lifesaving work.”
Efforts to convince the Taliban to allow the teams have been unsuccessful, Human Rights Watch said.
A ministry representative told Human Rights Watch that the Taliban has not harmed any of the vaccination team members nor has it disrupted operations of clinics in Helmand province that offer polio vaccinations.
The Taliban statement gave no details about the “spying” activities it linked to mobile vaccination teams.
Afghanistan is one of only three countries in the world where wild polio virus remains endemic.