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First case of polio discovered in Kabul since 2001

A young boy (R) holds a brace belonging to his sister who was crippled by polio as they wait for the start of her physio-therapy at an ortho
A young boy (R) holds a brace belonging to his sister who was crippled by polio as they wait for the start of her physio-therapy at an ortho

KABUL (Reuters) - A three-year-old girl has been diagnosed with the first case of polio since 2001 in the Afghan capital Kabul, the Ministry of Public Health said on Tuesday.

The child, called Sakhina, was a member of the Kuchi nomadic tribe that moves freely across most provinces in Afghanistan and her family was living in the Kasaba district in eastern Kabul.

The ministry has launched a three-day campaign to vaccinate all children under five in the area.

"When they went to the hospital after an examination, it became clear it was a case of polio," Ministry of Health spokesman Kaneshka Baktash told Reuters.

Baktash said the girl's family moved freely between Afghanistan and Pakistan and she had probably contracted the illness across the border.

All but one of 13 cases recorded in Afghanistan last year were contracted in Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan, the world's largest reservoir of endemic polio viruses, the World Health Organization said in January.

Sakhina has been taken to Pakistan for treatment and no other cases had been discovered in the Afghan capital.

The battle to eradicate polio is being undermined by the spread of the virus in Pakistan, where vaccinators are routinely killed by the Islamist Taliban, who see the program as part of a plot to sterilize Muslims. It is the only country in the world that recorded an increase in cases in 2013 according to the WHO.

(Reporting by Jessica Donati and Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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