First phase of biggest regional
vaccination campaign completed
First phase of biggest regional
vaccination campaign completed In a report released 22 July, WHO and
UNICEF announced completion of the
first phase of the biggest polio vaccination
campaign ever undertaken in the history
of the Middle East. Twenty-five million
children under the age of five were reached
in seven countries in 37 rounds.
“Despite immense challenges and the
desperate conditions around the region,
children were vaccinated from three to six
times. This gives a glimpse of hope and is
largely thanks to thousands of unsung heroes:
committed health workers and volunteers
who undertook such a formidable
task all over the region and inside Syria
braving dangers to provide the polio vaccination
to children” said Maria Calivis,
UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle
East and North Africa.
The report attributes the return of polio
to Syria after 14 years to the following factors:
Disruption of routine immunization,
severe damage to Syria’s health infrastructure,
continuous population displacement
within Syria and across its borders and
missing out on children.
According to the report polio vaccination
coverage has dramatically declined
in Syria from an average of 99% to 52%.
At least 60% of Syria’s hospitals have been
destroyed or damaged and less than a third
of public ambulances still function. Supply
of vaccination, service vehicles and cold
chain equipment have been damaged, put
permanently out of service or lost.
“Polio has forced its way back to Syria,
adding to what was already a humanitarian
disaster. We got to a point where we had to
work with very limited resources to defeat
what had been a long forgotten enemy in
this region: one that does not know borders
or checkpoints and can travel fast, infecting
children not just in war torn Syria
but across the region” said Chris Maher,
WHO Manager for Polio Eradication and
More than 6.5 million Syrian children
are now in need of life-saving humanitarian
assistance. Inside Syria, 765,000 children under the age of five live in hard-toreach
areas where conflict and restriction
makes it extremely difficult to reach them
with humanitarian assistance including
regular access to vaccines.
The report says that a number of critical
actions must be undertaken to end the
polio spread in the region:
l Grant immediate and unhindered access
to hard-to-reach children under the age
of five inside Syria.
l Guarantee the safe passage of health workers and protect medical vehicles and
other cold chain equipment inside Syria.
l Raise awareness on polio and the need
to vaccinate all children under the age of
five around the region multiple times.
l Secure funding to undertake repeated
vaccination rounds by the end of 2014.
“Our job is far from over. In the coming
months, we have to reach more and more
children especially those who have not
been reached because of the insecurity and
violence” concluded Calivis.
Polio vaccination campaign launched in Iraq
The WHO announced mid-August that
Iraq has launched a polio immunization
campaign aiming to protect over four
million children under the age of 5
throughout the country against the
The four-day campaign, undertaken
by the Ministry of Health with the
support of WHO and UNICEF, is part
of the national response to the reemergence
of the polio virus earlier this
year which ended nearly 14 years of
Iraq’s polio-free status.
Chris Maher, WHO manager for polio
eradication, said: “Iraq is one of seven
countries included in a consolidated
polio response plan by WHO and
UNICEF that aims to reach 25 million
children in the region with repeated
doses of the vaccine.
possible must be done to reach all
children and end polio forever.” Marzio Babille, UNICEF Iraq
Representative, said: “This campaign
comes at a critical time while the
country is witnessing a huge internal
exodus of children fleeing violence
and turmoil. This is a top priority for
No child should be missed.
No child should be paralysed.”
The campaign aims to reach children
in conflict zones, displaced communities
and host populations.
The ongoing violence in the country has precipitated
the internal displacement of nearly 1.2
million people since the beginning of
the year. Almost 200,000 have been
displaced only in the last three days
alone (8-11 August).
half of that number are children.
“As the violence spreads, children
are being displaced up to three times
with their families, often living in
overcrowded conditions where they
are at a much higher risk of contracting
infectious diseases,” said Dr Syed Jaffar
Hussain, WHO Representative in Iraq.
“WHO is working with the national
health authorities and partners to
ensure that the health of all vulnerable
populations, especially children, is
protected against diseases like polio.”
With two cases of polio in Iraq and a
relatively high number of unvaccinated
children due to difficulties in accessing
families and children, especially in conflict
zones and due to social reservations, Iraq
has now become vulnerable to a wider
outbreak of the crippling and incurable
WHO and UNICEF are helping
health authorities reach children in
12 governorates, including the three
governorates in the Kurdistan Region of
Iraq where approximately 250,000 Iraqi
children and 125,000 Syrian children
have taken refuge.
of upload: 16th Sep 2014