Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) officials on Saturday launched a nation-wide measles vaccination campaign that will see at least 5.5 million children being immunized against the virus.
Saturday's launch involves 29 provinces after officials decided to delay the campaign in Badghis and Nuristan provinces due to security issues. In addition, the campaign was already underway in Kandahar, Helmand and Khost provinces.
"So far there are no stats which show how many children have died from measles in Afghanistan. But we hope this campaign will increase the children's' immunity to this illness," deputy MoPH Minister, Ahmad Jan Naeem said.
Twelve measles cases have so far been registered this year in the country, according to the officials.
Earlier this year, the MoPH said that measles outbreaks are increasing in Afghanistan – with 445 laboratory-confirmed cases being reported in the first quarter of 2015, representing a significant increase from last year's total of 581 cases.
As part of this year's Immunization Week, with the support of the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, the Ministry of Public Health, WHO and UNICEF have however been conducting an ongoing supplementary measles immunization campaign in Khost, Helmand and Kandahar provinces which are most at risk for measles outbreaks.
Akhil Iyer, UNICEF representative in Afghanistan said globally 20 million people are affected by measles every year particulary in parts of Asia and Africa.
"UNICEF is committed to supporting the Ministry of Public Health in meeting the vaccination needs of some 1.2 million children under one [years old] especially those who are only partially immunized or not immunized at all," he said.
The MoPH said in April that over half a million children aged 9-59 months will be immunized against measles during the campaign.