Palais Briefing Notes: Yemen – Polio campaign, 21 February 2017

Yemen – Polio campaign

A nation-wide polio immunization campaign was launched yesterday in Yemen by national health authorities with support from WHO and UNICEF, aiming to immunize more than 5 million children under the age of five.

The campaign started in all governorates except Sa’ada (north west of the country) where it would take place next week and it would be combined with Measles and Rubella vaccination campaign due to the measles outbreak there.

More than 40 000 health workers (fixed teams in health facilities and mobile teams), are taking part in the three-day campaign. More than 5000 vehicles have been rented to conduct the campaign. In addition, religious and local council’s officials as well as health educators are also mobilizing support for the campaign.

This is the first polio immunization campaign since April 2016. The security situation in Yemen has limited accessibility of many parts of the country, leaving many children at risk of vaccine preventable diseases.

Polio has been reduced 99.9% worldwide, with only 3 endemic countries remaining (Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan).

As long as polio circulates anywhere in the world, children anywhere are vulnerable, especially those in conflict-affected areas where health systems are fragile and immunity is weak. Experience shows that campaigns such as this one can prevent further spread of polio and ultimately eradicate it from the world.

WHO helped with training of teams and the planning of the campaign. We are also paying incentives for vaccination teams and supervisors at all levels. WHO cover the costs of transportation (car rentals).

WHO and UNICEF also provide fuel, generators and solar-powered refrigerators to ensure the functionality of vaccine storage as well as cold chain (for example by transferring them from the conflict areas into safer places).

WHO deployed more than 47 independent supervisors to the most of the governorates. We are contracting external monitors (around 160 medical students) to independently survey the campaign.

In hard to reach conflict areas like Taizz and Hajja, an agreement was reached between parties to let vaccination teams circulate

WHO facilitated contacts between Sana’a and Aden health authorities in order that campaign starts simultaneously across the country.

Yesterday the campaign was launched at the same time by both health authorities.

WHO has also delivered medicines and supplies to functioning health facilities sufficient to cover primary health care needs for 20,000 beneficiaries for 3 months. To ensure medical care for injured civilians, WHO has deployed a surgical team to Hays hospital in Al-Hudaydah Governorate to support trauma care services, and has provided trauma kits sufficient for 400 surgical interventions to four main hospitals.