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Photograph: Photo by WikiImages, used under CC0

Pakistan on Monday launched a three-day national anti-polio campaign to vaccinate around 37 million children aged five or below to stamp out the crippling disease by the end of this year, officials said.

Thousands of security personnel – military, paramilitary and police – were escorting over 100,000 teams of vaccinators across the country, said Rana Safdar, national coordinator for the polio eradication programme.

“We hope to reach 95 per cent of kids under five this time,” said Safdar as the drive kicked started from Monday morning.

Pakistan is among two countries along with Afghanistan where polio – a disease that cripples kids for life – is still an endemic, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Taliban militants oppose vaccination because they blame it to be a West’s conspiracy to sterilize Muslims.

More than 100 vaccinators working on an immunization drive funded by the World Health Organisation and security men escorting them have been killed in bomb and gun attacks since 2012.     

Pakistan has made pledges at several international forums that the poliovirus will be eradicated by the end of the year.

The number of infected kids has dropped from 306 in 2014 to only 14 so far this year as the military pushed back militants from the area they previously controlled near Afghan border.

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