Afghanistan | News | 1 in 3 children still unimmunized in Afghanistan

1 in 3 children still unimmunized in Afghanistan

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Expanding access to vaccines crucial for saving lives and sustaining progress in reducing child mortality rates 

KABUL, 25 April 2018 – An estimated 160,000 to 200,000 children under one year of age in Afghanistan − one in three – received zero vaccinations last year. These gaps in routine immunization coverage not only put the lives of under-vaccinated children at risk but also everyone around them.   

Insecurity in parts of the country reduces access for health workers to reach children and for families to get to health clinics, while displaced populations and those living in remote areas are also more likely to miss out on vaccines.  

“Immunization is the right of every child, we must accelerate our efforts to ensure all children in the country are vaccinated and protected from preventable diseases,” said H.E. Minister for Public Health, Dr Ferozuddin Feroz.

“Through immunization we can protect children from diseases, such as measles, polio and pneumonia − a major killer of children under 5 years of age,” Dr, Feroz added.

The remarks come as Afghanistan marks ‘World Immunization Week’, which is celebrated annually on 24-30 April, to raise awareness about the importance of vaccination and ensure that people take action to receive all required life-saving vaccines. The theme for 2018 is: “Protected Together, #VaccinesWork”.

Efforts to eradicate polio also continue in Afghanistan and most of the country remains polio-free. In 2018, there have been 7 polio cases, mostly restricted to high-risk areas in the southern and eastern regions.

“We are seeing improvements in routine immunization coverage and new vaccines have been introduced,” said Dr Richard Peeperkorn, WHO representative in Afghanistan. “But the country is still behind schedule on the targets for disease eradication and elimination, including polio, measles, rubella, and maternal and neonatal tetanus. We must make more concerted efforts to reach all Global Vaccine Action Plan goals by 2020,“ Dr. Peeperkorn added.  

The Global Vaccine Action Plan was endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 2012 and is a commitment to ensure that no one misses out on vital immunization by 2020. 

“We must all commit to providing every child with the lifesaving vaccines they need,” said Stefano Savi, UNICEF’s deputy representative in Afghanistan. “This includes reaching the most vulnerable children, who are often affected by conflict or living in the most remote areas of the country. Children in Afghanistan have the right to get the best start in life, to develop and progress like any child,” Savi added.   

Immunization saves millions of lives globally each year and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful and cost-effective health interventions.

Key facts and progress:

  • The number of health centres providing immunization services was increased in 2017 by 12 per cent to 1,767 facilities around the country.
  • In 2017, some 1,250,000 children under one year old were vaccinated in against measles, polio, whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, pneumonia, meningitis and tuberculosis.
  • In 2017, 900,000 pregnant women and children younger than 5 were provided with medicines for antenatal care, newborn care, pneumonia, diarrhoea and meningitis.
  • 10 antigens are currently included in Afghanistan’s routine immunization programme, available free of charge.
  • In recent years, Afghanistan has introduced new vaccines, including the Pentavalent vaccine protecting people from five deadly diseases and the Pneumococcal vaccine to fight pneumonia.
  • This year, the Ministry of Public Health introduced the rotavirus vaccine, and it is hoped that this will significantly reduce mortality due to diarrhea in the country,
  • From July to September 2018, a nationwide measles immunization campaign will target 14 million children, aged 10 months to five years. 

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For more information, contact:

Ministry of Public Health Afghanistan

Dr. Nazary, National EPI Manager   
Mobile: +93 (0) 79 722 3009
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



Tuuli Hongisto, WHO Afghanistan, Mobile +93 (0) 78 220 0354, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Abdul Shakoor, WHO Afghanistan, Mobile + 93 (0) 70 002 5888 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



Toby Fricker, UNICEF Afghanistan, Mobile: +93 (0) 730 717 111, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Feridoon Aryan, UNICEF Afghanistan, Mobile: +93 (0) 730 717 115 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it    



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Key health-related statistics

Population (m) 29.7
Health expenditure (% of GDP) 9.5
Adult (15+) literacy rate (%) 34.8
Life expectancy at birth F/M (2010) 63.2-63.6

Sources: Central Statistics office, Afghanistan National health Accounts, Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey, Afghanistan mortality survey. 

Framework for health information systems and core indicators for monitoring health situation and health system performance, 2018

Afghanistan country health profile

Regional Health Observatory

WHO Afghanistan Programme Overview 

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Afghanistan WHO headquarters page