Bowling Out Polio

Rashid Khan greets his fans Credit: Kern Hendricks

Rashid Khan is a major star. At just 18 years old, he is an inspiration to millions of young Afghans. Born in Nangarhar, now home to pockets of Islamic State fighters, Khan persevered with his love for cricket and he is now an international sports hero. “In just five years, we have seen a dramatic improvement in Afghanistan, so I am hopeful for the future of my country,” Khan said in an exclusive interview with UNICEF.

Having grown up in Nangarhar where clean water and medical facilities are limited and where Polio has been paralyzing children for decades, Khan understands the importance of health. That is why he is supporting UNICEF, WHO and the Government’s joint effort to eradicate polio.

Polio — a highly infectious virus which can cause paralysis — has almost been eradicated worldwide, apart from three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented by immunization. That is why Khan and Afghanistan’s National Cricket Board are determined to eliminate the disease. “Everyone must vaccinate their children. The next generation are dependent on it. Our children can’t rebuild our country, if they are sick,” he said.

This week, Afghanistan’s National Tournament concludes with regional teams battling it out for the championship title. Supported by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, the cricketers are promoting national immunization and giving free vaccines to children who attend the match. “We have a duty,” says Khan. “As only one of three countries still spreading the virus, we must eradicate polio for good.”