Fifth national immunization day sees more than 2.91 million children vaccinated across Syria
24 April 2014, Damascus - The fifth round of the WHO and UNICEF response to the polio outbreak in Syria permitted immunization of more than 2.91 million children across the country, achieving the highest results since the targeted efforts began in December 2013 and exceeding the initial 2.88 million target.
The campaign was implemented through the Ministry of Health, local health authorities and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), supported by more than 4480 health professionals, 2560 mobile team health workers and 1660 trained volunteers. Post-campaign independent monitoring revealed that the coverage rates reached 92% in government- and opposition-controlled areas.
“The occurrence of polio outbreak after 14 years in Syria is a tragedy. However, WHO’s rapid response though provision of essential technical and operational support has reduced its impact,” said Dr Salah Haithami, WHO polio medical officer. He added that the excellent partnership among national authorities, WHO, UNICEF and SARC must continue until the day we celebrate the return of polio-free Syria.
Compared to previous rounds, the April campaign reached more hard-to-reach areas in Rural Damascus, Ar-Raqqah, Homs and Aleppo governorates. Moreover, in Idleb, Homs and Lattakia governorates, the initial target of vaccinated children was surpassed: for example, in Idleb, the 201 000 original target was exceeded by 25 078 children.
Difficulties were reported in accessing a number of areas mainly in Deir ez-Zor and Rural Damascus, resulting in low coverage rates in those governorates; 73% and 84%, respectively.
The sixth round of the response efforts will commence on 4 May 2014 and last for five days. In addition, WHO, UNICEF and Ministry of Health agreed to extend the response efforts till November 2014.
Recently, the Syrian Ministry of Health has confirmed 9 additional wild poliovirus cases reported during 2013 in opposition-controlled areas. This confirmation has increased the total number of cases in 2013 to 35, in addition to 1 case reported in 2014.
For more information, please contact:
Karim Shukr Communications Officer WHO Country Office - Syria Direct: +963 11 3315053 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org