London – Syria is a campaign emergency vaccination to protect children against measles and polio, a disease that can spread rapidly and sometimes with fatal results – especially in case of conflict and migration. This campaign – which aims to reach 1.4 million children – had to face difficult challenges: the main roads were blocked and there were serious clashes across the country, for which it was dangerous and complicated to obtain stocks of vaccines in city where missing.
“The hard work was that the drivers who had to retrieve the supplies of vaccines in Damascus and then transport, often through winding streets, in the countryside around the country,” says Iman Bahnasi, UNICEF specialist for survival and development of children. “But thanks to their determination and courage, all districts received the supplies they needed.”
The data received from 11 districts of 14 Syrians show that, following the campaign started on November 26, more than 630,000 children under five years have already received the polio vaccine, while more than 510 000 children aged between 1 and 5 years were vaccinated against measles.
Children less than one year have also received a dose of vitamin A.
“We believe that the actual number of vaccinated children is significantly higher, but the security situation is making it difficult to obtain updated data for some areas,” said Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, UNICEF Representative in Syria, “what is clear is that the campaign is in full swing. We are receiving reports of long lines of parents with their children before vaccination centers across the country, including cities such as Homs. ”
Although vaccinations are underway in nearly 1,200 health care centers, the main objective of the campaign is to reach the children of displaced families living in temporary shelters (throughout the country), an operation made possible by more than 100 mobile teams of vaccinations. Thanks to TV appeals, SMS messages and health education sessions, parents brought their children to get vaccinated.
UNICEF provided 1.5 million doses of vaccine against measles, as well as syringes and equipment for the “cold chain”, papers and records for vaccination and information materials.
This effort is continuing despite the withdrawal this week, a number of United Nations international staff from Syria. UNICEF is working with WHO, Ministry of Health and several non-governmental organizations, including the Arab Red Crescent, to increase the coverage until the end of the campaign, scheduled for December 10.
Since the crisis, UNICEF has reached hundreds of thousands of children with emergency aid, water, sanitation, education and child protection. In April 2012, for example, UNICEF has supported the vaccination of more than 284,000 children in Syria.