IMPACT
04/30/2014 11:17 am ET Updated May 05, 2014

Young People Lead Grassroots Vaccination Campaign As Polio Spreads Across Borders

Nikzad is on an ambitious mission. And he's not alone.

Thousands of young polio vaccinators, just like him, are taking on polio in Afghanistan, aiming to protect children under the age of 10 against the debilitating virus.

After many years of dormancy, a case of polio was reported in Kabul in February, CNN reported. And, as the video produced by UNICEF points out, if even just one case is confirmed, no child left without vaccination is safe.

"This is a doorway into Kabul," Nikzad says in the video, while vaccinating children on a mountainous, dirt road. More than 5,000 children under 5 years of age cross the Afghanistan-Pakistan border every day, and most of them are coming from polio-affected areas. "We want to be sure polio doesn't enter the capital."

Impoverished nations around the world have taken major steps forward in their efforts against polio. This past March, the World Health Organization officially proclaimed India polio-free, making roughly 80 percent of the world safe from the virus. Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are the only countries in the world where polio is still deemed endemic, although 10 countries still have active transmission of the virus, Reuters reported.

It's these 10 countries that pose the most concern for the international community. On Monday, the World Health Organization met with experts to discuss how to best contain the virus from spreading throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East, according to Reuters.

"Today was the first time I ever received any vaccination," 10-year-old Matin said in the UNICEF video. His family was coming to Kabul from Jalalabad to live in a nomadic camp. "At first I was scared, but then they told me this vaccine will prevent paralysis."

UPDATE: On May 5, the U.N. declared the spread of polio an international public health emergency that could grow in the next few months.

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India Certified Polio-Free
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India Certified Polio-Free

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