|© UNICEF Jordan/2012/Malhas|
|A young girl receives her measles vaccine at Mafraq's Centre of Motherhood and Childhood. A nurse reports that centre staff saw 300 to 400 children per day for vaccinations.|
By Alaa Malhas
AMMAN, Jordan, 2 January 2013 – According to the Ministry of Health, more than 132,000 children have been vaccinated against measles and polio in northern Jordan as part of a joint UNICEF and Ministry of Health vaccination campaign.
The campaign finished in early December, reaching vulnerable Jordanian and Syrian children under 5 years old, including Syrian children in Za’atari refugee camp, near the Syrian border.
A threat, in crowded conditions
“Many children coming from Syria have missed essential childhood vaccines due to the conflict, which has continued for nearly two years,” says UNICEF Representative in Jordan Dominique Hyde. “We need to make sure these children, who have already survived so much, are protected from potentially fatal diseases.”
Dr. Mohammad Abu Khudhair, a Medical Coordinator in Za’atari camp, says the campaign was urgently needed: “With the number of Syrian refugees arriving in Jordan, measles, in particular, is a threat in refugee camps and other places where people are living in crowded conditions.”
Sabah Al Muwali, a nurse at Mafraq’s Centre of Motherhood and Childhood, says that each day, the centre saw about 300 to 400 children who had come to be vaccinated. Eida, who waited in line with her young niece and nephew at the centre, says she believes “the immunizations are a good approach and will save lives.”
Planning for mass vaccinations
Vaccinating children on such a large scale is no easy task. Transporting and storing vaccines can be complicated, as they need to be kept cool at all times, with different temperatures for measles and polio.
Parents were informed about the campaign through the distribution of leaflets and posters at kindergartens, mosques, women’s associations and other local organizations. The vaccinations themselves were provided free of charge at health centres and by mobile teams that were established to reach children in Za’atari camp and in small communities.
Dr. Abu Khudhair says that, despite the obstacles, by communicating with parents and encouraging them to prioritize their children’s health, the campaign received a lot of support from local communities.
This vaccination campaign is part of a wider response to preventing these diseases. In the Syrian Arab Republic, a measles and polio vaccination campaign began in late November. As of 12 December, 948,000 children had been vaccinated against polio, and over 772,000 against measles, with the campaign still in progress.
Crisis in Syria