At a glance: Yemen

In Yemen, a major campaign to immunize under-5s

In Yemen, 71 per cent of children have been reached in time with vaccinations. This UNICEF Yemen promotional video highlights this achievement and the challenges still ahead.

 

By Khalid Amer

Yemen, declared polio-free just a few years ago, launches a nationwide effort to eradicate the disease.

SANA’A, Yemen, 16 July 2013 –The huge turnout of mothers, fathers and even grandfathers at the start of the National Immunization Days (NIDs) campaign made for an impressive sight in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Yemen/2013/Al-Sayaghi
Abdullah Alhasani holding his daughter as she is vaccinated at Alsafiah health centre during the National Immunization Days campaign. "My children are my priority," said the father of four.

Many had travelled long distances to ensure their children got vaccinated. “I brought my daughter to get vaccine drops because I don’t want her to be disabled,” said Amenah’s father, Abdullah Alhasani.

Although Yemen was declared polio free in 2009, new cases were reported in 2011 and 2012, and routine immunization coverage is well below the optimal level set forth by the World Health Organization (WHO). With 48 cases of wild polio virus recently confirmed in Somalia and Kenya and an influx of migrants from the Horn of Africa to Yemen, the risk of cross-border transmission is also a significant concern.

Queuing up

In the past, many parents did not understand the importance of immunization, but today things are clearly different. On the first day of the national campaign, this health centre in Alsafiah area was full of parents waiting patiently.

“I knew about the immunization campaign from the TV, so I have been waiting since morning for my turn,” said one mother.

Abdullah, a farmer from Raymah governorate, about 100 km from Sana’a, stood in the queue with his three boys and one girl. “My children are my priority,” he said. “I saw many children in my village who didn’t get vaccinated, and how they are suffering because they are disabled. When I saw an advertisement about the national immunization campaign on TV, I decided to bring my daughter to the health centre to get vaccinated.”


 

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Yemen/2013/Al-Sayaghi
Ahmed Alzareafah with his grandchildren at Alsafiah health centre. "I don't want them to lose this opportunity to get vaccinated," he said.

Also in the queue was Ahmed Alzareafah, a grandfather.

“I brought my three grandchildren to this health centre to keep them protected and healthy by giving them the vaccine drops,” he said. “I have seen a child in my neighbourhood who is suffering from disability due to polio. I brought my grandchildren instead of their father because he went to work, and I don't want them to lose this opportunity to get vaccinated.”

Health volunteer Aliah Alrahmi said, “Parents are excited to bring their children to the health centre, and some of them are waiting for vaccination teams to come to their houses.” 

Millions of children to be immunized

During the NIDs, the Government of Yemen, in collaboration with UNICEF, WHO and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, aimed to reach more than 4.7 million children under age 5. During June and July, 40,424 health workers and volunteers worked in two rounds of three days to vaccinate children under age 5 in all of Yemen’s governorates. In support of the Government, UNICEF provided all the vaccines, as well as social mobilization activities and other support costs.

With continued national campaigns and the scaling up of routine immunization, it is possible that Yemen will again become polio-free.


 

 

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