The situation in Afghanistan has escalated since a zoom meeting of RI END POLIO NOW Coordinators last week but several messages with great impact were delivered by our senior leaders during that meeting.
Many Rotarians have expressed concern about the future of our Polio Eradication Initiative – when ultimate success is so close.
However, RI Past President and 2021/22 Chair of The Rotary Foundation, John Germ, told the meeting Rotary’s team has been working with the Taliban for some time and we need to remember  ‘the Taliban have children too – and want them protected against Polio’.
‘We acknowledge the tragedy of the situation in Afghanistan, but there have always been obstacles in the way that have been overcome,” he said.
RI Past Vice President and International PolioPlus Chair Mike McGovern stated that Rotary’s team is working closely with Afghan PolioPlus chair, Ishak, and news is positive.
‘We have only one wild virus case in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the past eight months – and very little trace is being found in environmental samples.  We need to work with all elements of leadership in that country and the anti government element has indicated a willingness to work with us,’ he said.
‘Historically, the Taliban have never been against Polio vaccination. They are wary of people involved in delivering the vaccines but they want to target the end of Polio and are very well organised.’
Further, following dramatic events this week, Mike McGovern updated last week’s comments …
‘In 2001, despite internal conflicts and a global pandemic, Afghanistan is seeing unprecedently low transmission of wild polio, with just one case reported this year. Not only has the country seen a drastic reduction in cases of wild polio, polio surveillance data confirms this progress and significantly less virus is being detected in the environment. 
‘As conflict in Afghanistan quickly evolves, we must advocate for the children of Afghanistan. The Polio program must work and communicate with all stakeholders involved to ensure that polio immunisation remains a priority to ensure the gains we have made against polio do not diminish.
‘We look forward to working with our polio eradication partners and the Afghani people to completely eradicate polio,’ he concluded.