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Ulama vow to support anti-polio drive


AT-Kabul: Over 80 Ulama (Islamic scholars) in eastern Nangarhar province on Saturday expressed support for the polio eradication program.

“It is not only the responsibility of the government to eradicate polio from Afghanistan but we are all responsible and must cooperate in eradicating this devastating disease and paying attention to the improvement of our children’s health”, Mawlawi Abdul Zahir Haqani, director of Hajj and Islamic Affairs for Nangarhar province said in a gathering.

The statement said the Islamic scholars committed to spreading messages to their communities, for example during religious sermons on Fridays, about the safety and benefits of the polio vaccine, highlighting that it is the only effective prevention for the disease.

The Nangarhar Ulama endorsed the national Ulama declaration on polio issued at a conference held in Kabul earlier this year with the support of the Al-Azhar University of Egypt, the International Fiqh Academy, the Organization of Islamic cooperation and the Islamic development Bank. The declaration states that “the polio vaccine is allowed according to Islam and is fully in accordance with the rulings of Sharia.”

Also, the public health ministry said in a statement that the Ulama highlighted the polio vaccination was crucial for children’s health, calling on all Afghans to cooperate with health workers during polio vaccination campaigns, and endorsed a national Ulama declaration on polio issued in February this year.

It noted in the declaration, the Ulama strictly condemn all attacks and aggression toward vaccinators and health workers and highlight the importance of Islamic solidarity for polio eradication, both at the national and international level.

Polio has been eradicated in most countries but it remains endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, with 10 cases being reported in Afghanistan so far in 2016. The support of religious leaders and scholars is crucial in the battle to eradicate polio as they play a key role in spreading information about the importance of vaccination and convincing communities to vaccinate their children to protect them, the statement underlined.

“The polio vaccine is halal and the only way to protect our children from this crippling disease. Islam emphasizes the importance of good hygiene and prevention of diseases,” said Mawlawi Essanul Haq Hanafi, an Islamic scholar.

The statement asserted during the one-day conference, local government officials from the province and representatives from the ministry of public health highlighted the progress and remaining challenges of the polio program, encouraging the Ulama to continue their support for vaccination campaigns.

Earlier this year, influential Ulama and Afghan religious scholars have gathered for similar conferences to endorse polio vaccination in Kunar and Kandahar provinces. Religious leaders around the country continue their support for polio eradication to ensure that every child under the age of 5 is reached during every vaccination campaign, the statement concluded. -AT

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