Half a million doses of covid vaccine will be given – in a country ravaged by violence where skepticism towards vaccinators is great. Afghanistan has launched its vaccination campaign.
The first covid vaccine injections are given in Afghanistan, at a ceremony at the presidential palace in Kabul. The third person from the right to look at the injection is President Ashraf Ghani.
Healthcare professionals, security forces and journalists are first in line when the 500,000 doses of Astra Zeneca vaccine, donated by India, are to be injected.
“A great opportunity for the people of Afghanistan,” said President Ashraf Ghani, who was present when the first shots were fired on Tuesday, according to the AFP news agency.
But vaccination is, to say the least, a challenge in violence-ravaged Afghanistan, where civilian rule is weak and the extreme Taliban movement is advancing. The Taliban, which controls parts of the country, have certainly said they support covid vaccinations, but the fundamentalists have also stepped up their bombings and killings of high-ranking officials, among other things.
Violence has gained momentum during the latest round of peace talks between the Taliban and the central government, which began in September.
A total of 3,035 civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year and 5,785 were injured.
Violence in combination with poverty and lack of health care has created a breeding ground for the spread of the coronavirus. Afghanistan is believed to have been hit hard by covid-19, although the statistics officially reported are not very high: 55,600 infected and more than 2,400 dead in a country with 38 million inhabitants.
But a study published by the Ministry of Health last autumn estimates that as many as ten million Afghans may have been infected with the coronavirus.
Perhaps that was the country’s caretaker Minister of Health, Waheed Majroh, when the first vaccines were given, but Majroh was restrained and said he did not expect any miracles.
– It will be a challenge to reach out to the whole country, he stated according to Reuters.
Add to that the fact that there is widespread suspicion of vaccination campaigns in Afghanistan, as well as in neighboring Pakistan. It may have to do with the fact that the American CIA used one as a cover when identifying where in Pakistan the terrorist leader Usama bin Laden lived, before he was killed.
In 2019, the Taliban banned the Red Cross and the World Health Organization (WHO) from operating in Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan on the grounds that they had “acted suspiciously” – a ban that was later lifted. Afghanistan is one of the few countries in the world where endemic polio still exists and during the pandemic shadow last year, the number of cases increased there.
In addition to the 500,000 doses of covid vaccine that are now beginning to be given, Afghanistan is waiting for injections from the global vaccine program Covax. They should be enough for 20 percent of the population. President Ashraf Ghani has set a 40 percent vaccine coverage target, according to Reuters.
Background: The situation in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is estimated to have 38 million inhabitants, although the data are very uncertain. The majority of the population subsists on agriculture and animal husbandry.
The country is an Islamic republic with a fairly gender-segregated society, despite the fact that full equality between women and men must prevail according to the constitution. Civil wars have been relatively constant since the late 1970s and the economy and infrastructure are in ruins.
The Soviet invasion in 1979 was followed by a protracted war between the communist regime and Islamist mujahedin groups, supported by the United States. After the takeover in 1992, the militia groups soon turned their weapons against each other. The chaos and war fatigue paved the way for the fundamentalist Taliban movement that took control of the country within a few years.
Following the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, US-led forces began bombing Afghanistan. This is because the terrorist network al-Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden, who was believed to be behind the act, had a refuge with the Taliban movement. This led to the fall of the Taliban regime.
The NATO force ISAF had at most about 130,000 troops in Afghanistan. About 50 countries have participated, including Sweden. ISAF’s combat mission was officially ended on December 31, 2014, despite the situation then remaining violent and uncertain. Attempts to rebuild the country since then have largely failed.
Sources: Nationalencyklopedin, Landguiden / UI and more
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