Kabul, Afghanistan (BBN)- United Nations agencies working in Afghanistan have urged all parties in the strife-torn nation to respect the right of children to life and education, including by allowing safe access for vaccinators and ensuring that students, teachers and schools are free from violence.

The call comes just days after a suicide bombing in the south-eastern town of Spin Boldak killed a driver for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and two doctors working with the World Health Organization (WHO) on a polio vaccination program.

So far this year 18 cases of polio have been reported in Afghanistan – one of four remaining countries in the world where the disease is endemic. Of those, 16 cases were reported in the south and two in the east, both areas where insecurity has hindered access for vaccinators, a UN press statement said.

“Continued insecurity has greatly challenged our vaccination efforts,” Tahir Mir, who works with WHO’s Polio Eradication Initiative, told a news conference in Kabul on Thursday.

Dr. Mir added that last weekend’s killing will not prevent UN agencies and the Afghan Ministry of Health from continuing its efforts, and urged all actors to allow immunizations to take place next week from 21 to 23 September, to coincide with the annual observance of the International Day of Peace.

The head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Afghanistan said she was confident that the country was close to eliminating the scourge. “If we have the days of tranquillity we are confident we can finish the job of eradication of polio in Afghanistan. It is within reach,” said Catherine Mbengue.

UNICEF and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are also urging that children, teachers, schools and literacy centers in Afghanistan be protected against all kinds of violence, she added.

BBN/SI/SS/AD-19September08-5:56 PM