Keeping Iraq “polio free”: New immunization campaign targets 5.8 million children
A five day nationwide polio immunization campaign targeting 5.8 million children under five years of age in Iraq will commence Sunday 12 April and will be marked by launch events on 12 April in Baghdad, organized by the Ministry of Health Iraq, and on 13 April in Erbil organized by the Kurdistan Regional Ministry of Health.
WHO and UNICEF shall join both events with Rotary International delegates attending the launch in Erbil. The immunization campaign comes a month to the one year mark since the last case of polio was reported in Iraq, and is being conducted with emphasis on vaccinating every single child under five years of age throughout country.
Iraq is one of the highest risk countries for polio eradication in the Middle East due to vulnerable populations living in multiple governorates. These include internally displaced populations, refugees, communities dwelling in slums and vast portions of the country where insecurity hinders health outreach activities.
Vaccination teams will make special efforts to reach children within these populations during the April campaign, with approximately 24,000 health workers set to conduct house-to-house visits.
“Action to contain and stop polio in Iraq has been strategic, concentrated and swift due to the strong commitment of the Government,” said Dr Jaffar Hussain, WHO Representative to Iraq. “Keeping Iraq polio free has been a major priority for WHO and its partners over the past twelve months, and we are doing everything we can to maintain this great achievement,” he said.
In the last year, a total of 13 subnational and national polio immunization campaigns were conducted across the country to counter gaps in routine immunization services. Violence and insecurity in many parts of Iraq, damage to health facilities, and a shortage of health workers continue to create hurdles in reaching every child under five with oral polio vaccine (OPV).