Syrian Arab Republic | News | Mass polio immunization campaign aims to reach 3 million children in Syria

Mass polio immunization campaign aims to reach 3 million children in Syria

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UNICEF and WHO appeal for improved access to children

DAMASCUS, Syria, 18 October 2015 -- A 5-day nationwide immunization campaign began today in Syria aiming to vaccinate 3 million children against polio.   

The current campaign is part of a comprehensive response to the polio outbreak in October 2013. 15 mass vaccination campaigns reaching on average 2.9 million children each round have been carried out since. No new cases have been reported since January 2014.  

The campaign is jointly organized by the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and local partners, including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. It aims to reach children under the age of 5 across the country, including those who have been displaced. The vaccination will take place at fixed clinics, and in areas where the conflict is heavy vaccinators will go house to house.  

“Like all children around the world, Syria’s children wherever they are have the right to be immunized and protected against childhood diseases,” said Elizabeth Hoff, WHO Representative for Syria. “At least 200 000 children under the age of 5 continue to be missed out because they are displaced, trapped under siege or living in areas where conflict is heavy. We appeal to all parties to the conflict in Syria to facilitate access to all children during this campaign.”

“Despite immense challenges nearly 3 million children were vaccinated in the previous polio campaigns, thanks to the commitment of health workers and volunteers who undertook a formidable task across the country,” said Hanaa Singer, UNICEF Representative in Syria “In the coming days we should make every possible effort to vaccinate those children we missed out in previous rounds. Polio and the spread of other diseases cannot be contained as long as these children are not reached."

UNICEF and WHO are appealing to parties of the conflict in Syria to grant unhindered access to children living in hard-to-reach areas, guarantee the safe passage of health workers and protect medical vehicles and cold chain equipment.

Since October 2013, UNICEF has provided a total of 45 million doses of polio vaccines, 1500 cold boxes and 67 cold rooms to support polio response efforts in Syria. A social mobilization campaign aiming to reach 8 million people has been launched to raise awareness on polio and the need to vaccinate all children under the age of 5 around the Region multiple times.  

In addition to training health workers and volunteers at national, local and community levels, WHO has supported operational, monitoring and supervision activities of the last 15 polio campaigns, and covered the national surveillance gap by setting up 977 sentinel surveillance sites across the country, of which 30% are in hard-to-reach and besieged areas.  

Related link

Polio Eradication Initiative

Note to the Editor

36 children have been paralysed by polio in Syria. 25 of these children are in Deir Ez Zour, 5 in Aleppo, 3 in Idleb, 2 in Al-Hassakeh and one in Hama. 

Prior to this outbreak, no polio cases had been recorded in Syria since 1999.

At least 60% of Syria’s hospitals have been destroyed or damaged and less than a third of public ambulances are still function. 

Vaccination supplies, service vehicles and cold chain equipment have been damaged, or put permanently out of service or lost.  

For more information, please contact:

Shushan Mebrahtu
UNICEF Country Office in Syria
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+963 992 892 864

Rafik ElOuerchefani
UNICEF Country Office in Syria
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+963 993 349 708

Chima E. Onuekwe
WHO Office in Syria
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+963 958 999 800

Key health-related statistics

Total population (000s)

24 422

Total health expenditure (% of general government expenditure)

4.8

Maternal mortality ratio (per 100 000 live births)

68

Primary health care centres and units (per 10 000 population)

0.8

Total life expectancy at birth (years)

63.8

Source: Framework for health information systems and core indicators for monitoring health situation and health system performance, 2018

See Syrian Arab Republic country profile

Regional Health Observatory