First Published: 2007-04-25

 
Iraq vaccination campaign tackles measles
 

MMR vaccination campaign aims to reach 3.9 million children to close immunity gap.

 

Middle East Online

UNICEF: ‘One million children have no immunity to measles’ - © IRIN

BAGHDAD - Despite serious ongoing violence in Iraq, the government and international aid agencies started a major immunisation drive on Sunday to avert an outbreak of measles.

“One million children have no immunity to measles - more than enough to spark a dangerous outbreak in which many children could die or be left with lasting disabilities,” Claire Hajaj, UNICEF’s chief of communications at its Iraq Support Centre in Amman (ISCA).

“The purpose of the campaign is to close this immunity gap and protect children’s health. Measles also make children far more likely to die from other common illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia - so it is critical to prevent measles cases if possible,” she added.

The US $10 million, two-week campaign is being led by the Iraqi Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and from the European Commission. It hopes to reach 3.9 million Iraqi children aged between one and five with the combined MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine.

MMR vaccination has been remarkably successful in Iraq to date, reducing measles cases nearly 20-fold - from just over 9,000 cases in 2004 to fewer than 500 in 2006, according to UNICEF. However, UNICEF and WHO said that in the country’s current condition, many cases may go unreported.



Security concerns



Previously, vaccinators have been unable to reach all children in Iraq because of insecurity, particularly in restive areas. UNICEF and WHO are particularly concerned about safety in Anbar, Baghdad and Diyala provinces. This time, vaccinators are employing different strategies to reach children.

“UNICEF is providing transport to over 2,000 vaccinator teams to help them move in insecure or remote areas. In some areas the vaccinators will not travel house to house but will operate from fixed posts to help ensure their safety,” said Hajaj.

“Special plans are also being made to send vaccinators to areas with many IDPs [internally displaced people]. But in the end, vaccinators’ safety depends on the will of the community to protect them and help their mission. UNICEF has also been supporting efforts to engage local leaders to support the vaccination drive and help vaccinators pass unhindered to do their job,” Hajaj added.

Muhammad Obaidi, media officer for the secretary of health in Anbar province, said he was concerned for the safety of vaccinators in dangerous areas.

“We have been trying to speak with the representatives of all the fighting groups in these hot spot areas - as well as the military and the local population - to guarantee that vaccinators can reach children safely. But nowadays we should be careful all the time and not trust anybody as we never know with whom we are dealing,” Obaidi said.

Vaccinators said they were scared of encountering violence in the course of the immunisation campaign but that their overwhelming sense of humanitarian duty to save Iraqi children kept them optimistic.

“The violence is general and targeting everyone, especially in some hot spot areas but someone has to save those children. This campaign can save the lives of millions. This is a duty that should be done by all Iraqis and not only vaccinators,” said one of the vaccinators, who requested anonymity for security reasons.

© IRIN

 

Hamas says US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk

Erdogan says may shut Iraqi border at any moment

Haley: Iran must be judged in totality of its aggressive behaviour

Jobless Tunisians seek new migration routes to Europe

Syrian general accused of journalist deaths killed in Deir Ezzor

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Raqa liberators ready for civilian handover, on to next battle

Revolutionary Guards say Iranian missile program will continue

Turkish police hold civil society figure at airport

Erdogan calls on three major mayors to resign

ICC investigating several war crimes in Mali

Tunisian couple jailed for 'public indecency' over car kiss

Next round of Syria talks at end October

Gazans hope Palestinian reconciliation ends their woes

PSG's Khelaifi to be quizzed in Swiss World Cup probe

UN urges de-escalation in Iraq

EU says Israeli settlements illegal under international law

Kurdish independence goes from dream to dust

Female commander more than just poster girl for Raqa victory

Saudi airline flies to Baghdad for first time in 27 years

Wanted Dead: France's approach to IS jihadists

Saudi Arabia to monitor interpretations of prophet's sayings

Italy busts Libyan diesel smugglers

Khamenei vows to 'shred' nuclear deal if US pulls out

Fate of IS fighters in Raqa uncertain

Turkish Red Crescent concerned by Idlib humanitarian ‘drama’

US firm to build solar plants in Gaza

Ghost city Raqa scanned for survivors, bombs

Bahrain accuses Iran of harbouring 160 'terrorists'

Qatar says Gulf crisis hindering fight against IS

Qatar emir calls for talks on visit to Indonesia

Iraq calls on BP to help develop Kirkuk oil

Israeli forces raid Palestinian media offices linked to Hamas

French parliament is set to pass new anti-terror law

Baghdad says mission accomplished in Kurd operation

Israel says no to Palestine talks until Hamas disarms

IS territory down to almost 10% of 2014 ‘caliphate’

Over 3000 civilians flee Raqa under deal with jihadists

Ideology and objectives clash at Deir Ezzor

Erdogan gets Polish backing on Turkey's EU bid

Iranian guards commander killed in Syria

Fitch Ratings says threat to Qatar liquidity fading

Iran warns EU against new nuclear deal conditions

Turkey activists face trial next week under terror charges