A national polio immunization drive to protect 4.8 million Iraqi children was launched by the Iraqi Ministry of Health. The campaign was delayed for a week because of security concerns across parts of the country.
Over the next five days, over 5400 mobile vaccinators will travel house-to-house across Iraq to immunize every child under five against polio. The campaign will help to maintain Iraq?s polio-free status, a public health triumph for children won through several successful immunization drives such as this latest one. Iraq?s last polio case was reported in 2000.
UNICEF is providing oral polio vaccines (OPV) for the campaign, as well as transport and communication support to help vaccinators reach children even in Iraq?s most remote and insecure areas. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also provided vital assistance to the Iraqi government for planning the campaigns, training local health staff and providing incentives for vaccinators.
This is Iraq?s second polio campaign of 2006. The first campaign was held in April/May and immunized over 96per cent of the target population. The second round of the current campaign will take place in December.
Polio is a highly infectious and incurable disease that can cause lifelong paralysis. Most of its victims are children under five years old. Although polio has been driven from Iraq, a recent global resurgence of the virus has brought a renewed threat to the region. Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Sudan have all been re-infected since 2004, making this week?s campaign critical to safeguard Iraq?s children.
UNICEF and WHO commend the Iraqi Ministry of Health, and in particular the vaccinators themselves, for their great commitment to ensure the success of the current campaigns. The UN Agencies are calling on everyone in Iraq to facilitate the vaccination effort.
Iraq is part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the world?s largest public health drive spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF.