- Title: IRAQ: Iraqi vaccination campaign aims to reach 3.9million children in the country
- Date: 27th April 2007
- Summary: CHILDREN QUEING FOR VACCINATIONS MORE OF CHILDREN QUEING/ DOCTOR BESIDE
- Embargoed: 12th May 2007 13:00
- Location: Iraq
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Health
- Reuters ID: LVA6G256KGNVKF4QDK3MGJDGENPB
- Story Text: A humanitarian operation in Iraq sees 8,000 vaccinators setting off across the country in an effort to vaccinate millions of Iraqi children against measles, mumps and rubella. The vaccination campaign will last two weeks and aims to provide the MMR combined vaccine to 3.9 million children aged between one and five years old. In one of the biggest humanitarian operations in Iraq over the last two years, a wave of 8,000 vaccinators have set out across the country to prevent a possible outbreak of measles amongst Iraqi children, many of whom have not received their routine immunisations as a result of the violence and instability affecting much of the country.
The ambitious immunisation drive will last for two weeks and aims to bring the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) combined vaccine to as many of the
9 million Iraqi children aged between one and and five years old as possible.
Al-Iraqiya State television has started to advertise the campaign, urging people to come to the health centres in Baghdad and all over Iraq to eradicate measles and other diseases in the country.
Deputy Health Ministry Amir al-Khozaei said that the Ministry of health has started this campaign to avert an outbreak of measles.
"The aim of the drive is to immunise against measles, rubella and mumps. This immunisation is aimed at eradicating these diseases that affect children at an early age. These diseases have various effects on children at later, more mature stages. They are epidemic diseases that have multiple effects and may cause death, especially in young children," he said.
The campaign is being led by the Iraqi Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Commission.
The 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.
There has been a good turnout by people from the sprawling Shi'ite slum of Sadr city.
Doctor Hashim Hamid Jabir, director of the seventh health care centre in Sadr city said that the health centre aims to immunise 12,534 children in the area.
"According to the seventh health care centre, the number of children who should be immunised (in Sadr City) are 12,534 children. About 11 teams will participate in this campaign, some will be fixed teams and they will stay inside the centres, they are already there and another teams will be inside the hospital of al-Shahid al-Sadr and the other teams will be in the other sectors of the city," he said.
Previously, vaccinators have been unable to reach many children in Iraq because of insecurity, particularly in restive areas. UNICEF and WHO are particularly concerned about safety in the Anbar, Baghdad and Diyala provinces.
This time, vaccinators are employing different strategies to reach children.
A source at UNICEF said that 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 centres to help ensure their safety.
The source added that special plans are also being made to send vaccinators to areas with many displaced people. However, the vaccinators safety ultimately depends on the will of the community to protect them and help their mission.
According to the source, UNICEF has also been supporting efforts to engage local leaders to support the vaccination campaign and help vaccinators perform their jobs unhindered.
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