At a glance: Yemen

UNICEF supports a massive measles and polio vaccination campaign in Yemen

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Yemen/2012/Al-Asaadi
Ruaa, 15 months, waits with her father Abdulghani at Al-Wahda Medical Centre in Sana'a, Yemen, where children are being vaccinated against measles and polio.

By Mohammed Al-Asaadi

SANA’A, Yemen, 3 April 2012 – Mohammed Abdulkarim Saeed and his two sons, 1-month-old Yusuf and 18-month-old Ibrahim, eagerly awaited the launch of the second phase of the national measles and polio campaign in Sana’a.

“I have been here since this morning because I need my sons to be vaccinated,” said Mr. Saeed. “We need a healthy generation and we need to start now. We as parents have the responsibility to ensure our children have a better future.”

Om Mohammed was also waiting for the launch. She brought all her four of her kids, and encouraged her sister-in-law to bring along her two children as well.

“We knew about this campaign from TV and also we received a short message into our phones,” Ms. Mohammed said. “I could not wait. I need my children to be protected, as I am concerned and scared about the reported deaths as a result of the measles.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Yemen/2012/Al-Asaadi
Prime Minister of Yemen Mohammed Salem Basindwa and UNICEF Representative in Yemen Geert Cappelaere launch the second phase of a national measles and polio immunization campaign in Sana'a, Yemen.

A spike in deadly measles cases

The campaign comes in the wake of a significant spike in measles-related deaths, with over 4,300 cases and 155 deaths taking place between January 2011 and February 2012. The increase in measles cases follows disruptions to social services, many of them caused by the unrest in 2011.

Measles is highly contagious and  threatens to become the main killer of children in Yemen. Left unchecked, the disease could escalate, causing more than 30,000 cases and 5,000 deaths annually.

“We are very concerned about the further spread of the measles outbreak, especially among children who are the most vulnerable to illness and death due to the disease,” said UNICEF Representative in Yemen Geert Cappelaere. He urged all parents, community and religious leaders, teachers, and health workers to make sure that all children are vaccinated.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Yemen/2012/Al-Asaadi
Prime Minister of Yemen Mohammed Salem Basindwa and UNICEF Representative in Yemen Geert Cappelaere launch the second phase of a national measles and polio campaign in Sana'a, Yemen.

Mobilizing thousands

The campaign aims to vaccinate 7.9 million children under age 10. The first phase of the campaign was carried out earlier in March, and the second phase was launched by Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa on 31 March. Tens of thousands of vaccinators were sent out to health facilities, schools and mosques to vaccinate millions of children. In both phases, polio and measles immunizations were administered, as well as vitamin A supplements.

Thousands of religious leaders and hundreds of health education coordinators were mobilized to support the campaign. An extensive awareness campaign was conducted on mainstream and mass media, along with announcements over mobile messages and vehicles with loud speakers urging people to immunize their children.

The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated nearly US$5 million to support the campaign, with other funding coming from the Government of Yemen and other humanitarian partners. The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) issued a generous contribution toward the cost of the oral polio vaccine. UNICEF and WHO and local partners are implementing the immunization.


 

 

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