Onus is on parents to ensure kids get polio shots: Islamic scholars
The neglected dependents sometimes end up suffering from chronic physical and psychological disorders.
Dubai - It is disturbing to see parents neglect their responsibilities and leave their sons or daughters at risk of illness and disability.
Parents have a moral and religious obligation to give the polio vaccine to their children, eminent Islamic scholars have said.
At a meeting held in Oman last week, Islamic scholars from Afghanistan and Pakistan said giving kids the polio vaccine is not only safe and in compliance with Islamic principles, it is also a religious and moral duty that all parents must fulfill.
A joint declaration was issued at the Afghanistan-Pakistan Eminent Ulama Conference - ahead of this week's World Immunisation Week - where the role of the UAE in eradicating the disease was also praised.
As the last remaining bastions of the wild poliovirus are in the bordering areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the two countries are tackling challenges that range from poor health systems to community mistrust.
While global polio eradication efforts address the former, advocates including religious scholars are essential to addressing the latter and assuring parents of the safety and efficacy of vaccines.
"Children are precious in the eyes of Islam, which requires us to call for their protection," said Sheikh Dr Kahlan bin Nabhan Al Kharusi, Assistant Grand Mufti of Oman. He was referring to the weight of responsibility in issuing fatwas and the role of scholars in clarifying Islamic rulings for the general public.
In his address during the opening session of the conference, the Deputy of Al Azhar Al Sharif, Dr Saleh Abbas Goma Saleh, called on parents to have their children vaccinated to protect them from harm.
"The family bears the responsibility of the proper upbringing of and caring for children and maintaining their health," he said.
"It is disturbing to see parents neglect their responsibilities and leave their sons or daughters at risk of illness and disability. Those neglected dependents sometimes end up suffering from chronic physical and psychological disorders."
Al Azhar Al Sharif's Islamic Research Academy and the International Islamic Fiqh Academy have authorised countries and governments to require people's use of immunisation as a means of stopping epidemics and preventing their spread.
The Secretariat of the Academy denounced fatwas that prohibit vaccinations and called on preachers and imams to invite people to welcome vaccination campaigns.
Dr Ahmed Al Mandhari, regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean at the World Health Organisation, said: "In the past, around 1,000 children across the world were infected by the disease every day."
"But with the development of a safe vaccine that was used to vaccinate every child worldwide, we have succeeded in bringing polio to the brink of eradication.
A 99.9-per-cent decline in polio cases has already been achieved since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched in 1988, with more than 10 million people walking today who would otherwise have been paralysed by polio."
The Islamic scholars praised the leadership of Saudi Arabia and the UAE for their political and financial commitment.
UAE determined to fight polio worldwide
The UAE is a global leader in polio eradication, having supported the delivery of 281 million vaccines to protect the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach children in Pakistan. The country has also aided polio outbreak vaccination efforts in Afghanistan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan.
In 2017 alone - thanks to the UAE's funding for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) through its Pakistan Assistance Programme - almost 13 million children were repeatedly vaccinated during polio immunisation campaigns in the 66 highest-risk districts in four Pakistani priority provinces.
Since 2011, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has pledged $167 million towards polio eradication activities through the GPEI and the Pakistan Assistance Programmme.
Milestones in the UAE's anti-polio drive around the world
The UAE provided critical support for campaigns in high-risk districts, immunising more than 7.5 million children. Following repeated immunisation campaigns, no wild poliovirus type 3 has been detected in the region since April 18, 2012, and globally since November 10, 2012.
Horn of Africa outbreak
With crucial support from the UAE, 25 million children were immunised in Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia, helping stop the outbreak. The region has remained polio-free since August 11, 2014.
Pakistan in focus
In 2014, the vast majority of cases occurred in conflict-affected areas along the Afghanistan border. Thanks to the UAE's support, Pakistan continues to inch closer towards interrupting transmission. Overall, the impact of the UAE's contribution to the GPEI (2011-2017) funding also contributed to community trust in Pakistan.
The country now has one of the highest vaccine acceptance rates in the world. In UAE-supported districts, more than 5,000 locally recruited, motivated, full-time, community-based vaccinators have helped identify and reach all children under the age of five.