SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN, 24 October 2018 – “Where I live, it is not safe for a woman to show her face. It is not easy to be a woman or child here. My cousin is just 11 years old and she is already engaged to be married soon. I am lucky… [my father] let me go to school and I have no pressure to get married, because I support my three unemployed brothers. However, if I wasn’t working I would also be forced to marry. My job is not just saving children’s lives, it is saving my own.”
"My job is not just saving children’s lives, it is saving my own."
Southern Afghanistan is barren and stunning – a sweeping desert landscape enveloped by mountains. The area has a rich and proud history but it remains a key battleground in the ongoing conflict. This year, southern Afghanistan also has the highest number of polio cases in the world. Teams of polio vaccinators traverse the country on an almost monthly basis to try to reach every child, but inaccessible areas and distrust hamper immunization efforts. Many of these immunization campaigns are focused in Afghanistan’s most conservative areas, where female polio workers are essential to eradicate polio once and for all.
Afia* is one of 70,000 committed polio workers supported by UNICEF and WHO. This is her story.