Iraq: Emergency Response to Polio Outbreak (January 2014 to February 2015)

Originally published



Iraq is one of the highest risk countries for polio eradication in the Middle East due to vulnerable populations living in multiple governorates. These include internally displaced populations, refugees, and communities dwelling in slums and vast portions of the country where insecurity hinders health outreach activities.

Following an outbreak of wild poliovirus in Syria in October 2013, the Government of Iraq, with the support of WHO and UNICEF, embarked on a series of national and sub national supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) to counter gaps in routine immunization services. A total of 13 SIAs have been conducted since 2014 to ensure all children under 5 years of age living in Iraq are vaccinated against polio.

Two cases were reported in Iraq in March and April 2014. So far there have been no reported polio cases since April 2014.

Population movement, damage to health facilities and a shortage of health workers continue to create hurdles in reaching every child under five with oral polio vaccine (OPV). Through strong collaboration between the Ministry of Health, WHO and UNICEF, and support from doners, vaccination teams have been able to consistently reach 90% of children under five n the last nine campaigns since April 2014.

To keep Iraq polio free, immunization campaigns will need to continue due to above mentioned significant risks. The Iraq Ministry of Health estimates a funding gap of US$45.5 million for vaccination planned in 2015 and 2016