Vaccination campaign strives to keep Iraq polio-free
The campaign, which began Sunday, targets approximately 5.8 million children under the age of 5. The vaccine campaign has been scheduled for April to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the last polio case that was confirmed in Iraq.
“Action to contain and stop polio in Iraq has been strategic, concentrated and swift due to the strong commitment of the government,” World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to Iraq Jaffar Hussain said. “Keeping Iraq polio-free has been a major priority for WHO and its partners over the past 12 months, and we are doing everything we can to maintain this great achievement.”
Iraq's Ministry of Health started the campaign in Baghdad with launch events on Sunday. The Kurdistan Regional Ministry of Health held its own launch events in Erbil and began the campaign Monday.
"The absence of wild poliovirus in Iraq for over a year, despite the complex humanitarian crisis, is testament to the efforts put into the emergency response from the respective Ministries of Health,” United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Iraq representative Philippe Heffinck said. “UNICEF, along with WHO, remains committed to providing strong technical support and welcomes the visit of Rotary for this campaign, as one of the spearheading partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.”
Among Middle East countries, Iraq has a high risk of polio re-emergence because the country has vulnerable populations that live in multiple governorates, which leads to displaced populations, slum communities and a high number of refugees. In addition, there are large parts of Iraq that are so unsafe that heath workers cannot administer health care there.
“Population movement and shortfalls in routine immunization pose significant challenges for the polio eradication program,” Hussain said. “However, with the committed leadership of the Ministry of Health, support from donors, and through strong collaboration among our partners, we have been able to consistently reach over 90 percent of all children for the last nine campaigns since April 2014.”