Baghdad, 6 April 2014 – The Iraqi Ministry of Health, with the support of UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), will conduct a round of National Immunization Days between the 6th and 10th of April in response to an outbreak of polio in the country and the Middle East. The vaccination campaign aims to reach all of the 5.6 million children between 0 and 5 years of age across Iraq with two drops of the oral polio vaccine (OPV), including in refugee camps, host communities and settlements. WHO is supporting the operation cost together with UNICEF and will be conducting an independent monitoring of this and subsequent campaigns.
On the 30th of March, the Ministry of Health announced that polio had re-surfaced in Iraq after an absence of more than 14 years. A case was detected in a six-month-old child from Rusafa, north of Baghdad. Laboratory testing conducted by WHO reveals the virus closely resembles the virus found circulating recently in Syria.
“We need unified commitment between the Government, UN agencies and the people of Iraq to kick the virus out of the country. We did it in 2000, we will do it again,” said Dr. Marzio Babille, UNICEF’s Representative in Iraq. “Polio eradication is a global priority. So I appeal to the people of Iraq to join hands in ensuring every child under the age of 5 is vaccinated during the upcoming April polio campaign, regardless of how many doses they’ve received previously.”
Iraq’s most recent nationwide polio vaccination campaign, in March 2014, was highly successful, reaching 5.3 million children with a dose of polio vaccine. The next round aims to put a stop to the polio outbreak and ensure all children in Iraq remain polio free.
“The resurgence of wild polio virus after fourteen years in Iraq requires concerted efforts. Vaccination is the only way to arrest the circulation of the virus and contain polio infection,” said Dr. Syed Jaffar, WHO Representative in Iraq. “The primary goal of the April campaign is to reach every child. The Ministry of Health has done remarkable work to reach unreached children and it is expected that the percentage of missed children will be minimized. At the same time, we need to strengthen Routine Immunization which is one of the main pillars of polio eradication”, he added.
WHO & UNICEF are supporting Iraqi Ministry of Health on the operational, monitoring & social mobilization efforts as part of Iraq Polio Outbreak Response.