AMMAN, 17 April 2013 – Amid rising concern over the risk of disease outbreaks, a mass vaccination campaign has been launched at Za’atari refugee camp, where over 100,000 refugees currently live in overcrowded conditions.
Jordan’s Ministry of Health, with support from UNICEF, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners are organizing the campaign.
The campaign seeks to protect children and young adults against measles and polio, diseases that can spread rapidly – and sometimes with fatal results – in times of conflict and displacement.
At least 90,000 Syrian refugees aged between 6 months and 30 years will be immunized against measles over the next two weeks while 24,000 under 5 year-old children will also receive polio drops. Some 22,000 of these children aged between 6 and 59 months will be given vitamin A, which contributes to reducing morbidity due to acute respiratory infections and diarrhea.
“The response has been great: Just on the first day, 6,000 persons were vaccinated against measles, 1,900 against polio and more than 1,800 received Vitamin A drops,” said Ms. Dominique Hyde, UNICEF Representative in Jordan. “It is crucial that this campaign works as measles is an extremely contagious disease and its potential spread could be devastating amongst people already living in vulnerable conditions.”
As well as Za’atari camp, the immunization team is expected to vaccinate both Jordanians and Syrian refugees in the three Northern Governorates of Mafraq, Irbid and Zarqa. Preparation is under way for a national campaign which will be launched after the discussions of the vaccination technical committee.
Through the Jordanian Ministry of Health, UNICEF is providing a total of 1 million measles jabs, 600,000 doses of polio vaccine and 500,000 vitamin A doses to meet current and future needs. WHO provided a technical and logistic support to the Ministry and plans to conduct a lot quality assurance sampling to monitor the mass immunization campaign.
"The health of refugees is of the utmost importance to UNHCR and we are grateful for the collaborative efforts of the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and WHO with UNHCR's Health team in ensuring access to measles vaccines for refugees," said Andrew Harper, UN Humanitarian Coordinator.
“This mass vaccination campaign is a real and great example of collaboration between UN agencies, local and international NGOs and the social community inside of the camp under the umbrella of Ministry of Health,” said Dr. Sabri Gmach, WHO Public Health Officer.
Five cases of measles have been identified in the Za’atari refugee camp - including a 23 year-old mother. The campaign will reduce the likelihood of further cases.
UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
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