27 Jan. 2009
PR# 2009-080

Provincial government assisted by Konar PRT helps fight polio

KABUL, Afghanistan - The Government of Konar province, with the help of the Konar Provincial Reconstruction Team, began an extensive vaccination drive targeting polio, January 11th.

Although polio vaccinations are common and have been very successful throughout established nations, Konar’s developing health services, road quality, and regional conflicts have all created an environment that makes it challenging to administer the vaccine.

"The [Konar] PRT has used over $71 million from the Commanders Emergency Response Program to build and enhance roads and bridges, which is one of the first means to getting better quality health care to the people of Afghanistan,” said Capt. George Hupp, Konar PRT Civil Affairs and Tucson, Ariz. native.

The oral polio vaccine was provided by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health.

“These vaccinations will protect the people from several diseases that can be life threatening. We have also contributed money to attaining medical ambulances for servicing the people on a more routine basis," Hupp said.

Several ambulances were provided by groups including Aide Medicale Internationale (AMI) and PRT Konar, an integral part of Konar Provisional Governor Sayeed Wahidi’s plan for distribution.

Wahidi understands that ambulances of the local government are limited by the primitive road infrastructure. Modern health care professionals are also difficult to train and educate in this area. These factors have slowed the implementation of vaccination programs until now.

Wahidi and his volunteers are aiming to distribute the vaccine to the most secluded areas in the province with plans to contract ‘pack’ animals to reach remote areas.

“Where we cannot go we will take animals and walk,” Wahidi said.

During the vaccination launch, several individuals gave speeches about the importance of this year’s vaccination to a crowd of 104 local volunteers.

“The vaccine should reach over 130,000 children across the province,” said Doctor Sayed Ameem Fatimi, Konar’s Public Health Minister.

Local officials are hoping this will be enough to vaccinate every child under the age of five across the region in two months.

Governor Wahidi administered the first polio vaccine of the campaign to a young Afghan girl at the end of the ceremony.

The Government of Konar is looking to the future and Doctor Fatimi shares in Wahidi’s vision, “This will only be the beginning, as I plan to get children and adults more vaccinations for more diseases such as hepatitis and tuberculosis.”

Contact Information ISAF Public Affairs Office
Tel: +93 (0)799 51 1155 - Mobile: 0093 (0) 799 55 8291 pressoffice@hq.isaf.nato.int - www.nato.int/isaf/