WHO and UNICEF Iraq Launch Vaccination Drive to keep the Country Polio-Free
Iraqi children under five this week are again the centre of a mass vaccination campaign that started on 24 May across all governorates in Iraq tokeep the country polio-free after completing one year since the last case of polio was recorded in a 34 month old girl in Rasafa Sector of Baghdad on 7 April 2014.
Iraq launched its initial response to combat polio in line with a major, multi-country response to the regional outbreak confirmed in Syria in 2013. Multiple vaccination rounds held in country since then have helped to protect the children of Iraq from paralysis caused by this incurable disease.
Despite ongoing conflict, mass population displacement and a complex and unpredictable security situation, only two cases of polio were confirmed in Iraq during the regional outbreak in early 2014.
WHO Country Representative to Iraq Dr Syed Jaffar Hussain said “Despite the civil unrest that engulfs over a third of the country, polio campaigns have continued to reach up to 90% of children, through collaborative efforts with multiple line ministries and local partners.”
He paid rich tribute to polio vaccination team members and parents of Iraqi children and appealed to the international community and partners for their continued financial and technical assistance over the next 12 months for four additional nationwide vaccination campaigns.
“Community efforts have been well acknowledged by the Independent Monitoring Board for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in their recent meeting. However, significant risks continue to exist and thus there is no room for complacency,” Dr Jaffar added.
UNICEF Country Representative to Iraq Phillippe Heffinck added, “The polio effort in Iraq has been successful despite tremendous challenges. The collaboration and leadership of the Ministries of Health and strong collaboration with partners such as WHO have established community ownership for polio campaigns, and created a strong platform for rolling out strong routine immunization services. Both of these achievements are not only remarkable, but essential to keep Iraq polio-free and improve the health of all Iraqi children.”
In May 2015, in a report of the WHO’s Emergency Committee convened under the International Health Regulations (IHR), Iraq was one of five countries removed from the list of ‘States infected with wild poliovirus but not currently exporting’.