President Ashraf Ghani and Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, held a video conference call on Monday night to discuss the polio situation in Afghanistan.
During the meeting the Gates and Ghani expressed their concerns over the surge in polio cases in Afghanistan due to restrictions imposed by the Taliban in areas under their control, the Presidential Palace said in a statement.
“The two sides also held a comprehensive discussion on reforming the polio vaccine implementation process and increasing facilities in this regard,” the statement read.
Bill and his wife Melinda run the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a funding organization, and polio eradication is one of their top priorities.
The foundation contributes to technical and financial resources to accelerate targeted vaccination campaigns, community mobilization, and routine immunizations and assists in dealing with the disease in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
The virtual meeting on Monday night comes after the Afghan Ministry of Public Health claimed this week that more than 3.5 million children have been deprived of anti-polio vaccinations due to restrictions imposed by the Taliban in several provinces.
The Ministry stated that the Taliban’s restrictions on the house-to-house vaccination campaign have increased from three to ten percent of homes in the last three years.
Mirjan Rasikh, head of the Polio Eradication Program said on this year’s campaign, which started just over a week ago that: “Although the Taliban promised to cooperate in implementing the vaccine, they have prevented it more so than in the past.”
“Children in Paktia and Maidan Wardak have missed the immunity doses against the poliovirus due to the Taliban’s restrictions,” Rasikh said.
The Taliban not only failed to cooperate with the process but also prevented thousands of children from getting the vaccine in Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, Kunduz, Takhar, Paktika, and Paktia provinces, the Public Health Ministry said.