An Afghan health worker administers polio vaccine drops to a child in Kabul today (Photo: WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Health officials announced today a setback in the fight to eradicate polio in Afghanistan: a three-year-old girl has been diagnosed with the disease in the capital Kabul, the city's first such diagnosis since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
Across the country as a whole, a total of 17 cases were reported in 2013, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
In response to the case, the health ministry has ordered a widespread vaccination campaign in the capital, BBC reports.
Afghanistan is one of only three countries in the world where the virus is considered endemic, along with Nigeria and Pakistan.
The girl who contracted the disease is a member of a poor Kuchi community in Kabul of formerly nomadic herdsmen. Her father is a taxi driver who often works near the border with Pakistan (the majority of polio cases in Afghanistan are in regions near the border).
Health workers are now going door-to-door in the area where the girl's family lives, putting drops of vaccine in the mouths of infants and marking their hands with a blue line.
"This new case in Kabul tells us that the effort on polio eradication is not over yet, and we have to accelerate the effort to make sure that every child, no matter where they are, receive polio drops," Afghan Health Minister Soraya Dalil told BBC.
Polio eradication campaigns have faced steep challenges in Pakistan, where health care workers have been repeatedly attacked by Taliban militants, who have alleged that the vaccine is dangerous and the workers are spies for the U.S.
Before this setback, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation reported that Afghanistan had seen a 50 per cent drop in cases between 2012 and 2013. And just last month, India announced it had reached the milestone of three years without a case of polio.
Via BBC News