AMMAN/GENEVA, 30 April 2013 – UNICEF and partners have stepped up vaccination campaigns in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey amid a number of measles outbreaks in a region already struggling to provide humanitarian assistance to millions of people affected by the Syrian crisis.
“With large population movements and the breakdown of regular health services in Syria, additional precautions are required to ensure that children are protected against killer diseases like measles no matter where they are,” said Mahendra Sheth, UNICEF Regional Health Advisor. “Immunization is one of the most cost-effective tools we have available.”
Since the start of the crisis more than two years ago, over 1.4 million Syrian refugees have fled into neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt, with a current average of up to 8,000 Syrians fleeing the country daily.
In addition, some 4.25 million Syrians have been internally displaced – nearly half of them children. Many live in cramped and unsanitary conditions where disease can easily spread. The on-going conflict has seriously damaged the health system including the national routine immunization programme.
In Iraq, since December 2012, about 332 cases of measles have been reported in the northern Domiz refugee camp. In Lebanon, since January, some 300 cases of measles have been reported by the Ministry of Health, while Syria has registered 133 confirmed cases. In Jordan, at least five cases have been identified among Syrian refugees in the densely populated Za’atari refugee camp. Meanwhile in Turkey over the past year, there have been some 3,000 to 4,000 reported measles cases, including 300 among Syrian refugees.
In all the countries, UNICEF, working with the Ministries of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, has increased vaccination campaigns to help ensure that all children are protected against disease. In Syria, some 550,000 children have been vaccinated by Ministry of Health teams recently as part of a national campaign that is targeting 2.5 million children with the support of UNICEF and the WHO. In Lebanon, 462,000 Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian children have been vaccinated this year alone.
In Jordan, a mass vaccination campaign at Za’atari camp has immunized 60,000 refugees against measles. A national vaccination campaign is expected shortly.
Meanwhile, in Iraq’s Domiz camp, about 19,300 refugees from the age of six months to 30 years were vaccinated with the support of UNICEF. In Turkey, the Ministry of Health has stepped up immunizations in eight provinces where most of the around 292,000 Syrian refugees are concentrated.
These campaigns coincide with World Immunization Week, which promotes global immunization as one of the most effective tools to keep children safe from deadly disease.
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.
In June 2012, the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States with UNICEF launched a global roadmap to end preventable deaths of children under the age of five. Since then, under the banner of Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, more than 170 countries have signed up and renewed their commitment to child survival.
For further information, please contact:
Simon Ingram, UNICEF Regional Office, Tel: +962-79-590-4740, firstname.lastname@example.org
Juliette Touma, UNICEF Regional Office, Tel: +962-79-867-4628, email@example.com
Malene Jensen, UNICEF Regional Office, Tel: +962-79-708-9007, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marixie Mercado, UNICEF Geneva, Tel: 4179 756 7703, email@example.com
World Immunization Week 2013