Lebanon launches second round of mass Polio vaccination campaign First round reaches 98.4% of children under the age of 5 across the country
BEIRUT, 6 December 2013 – On the eve of launching the second round of Lebanon’s mass polio vaccination campaign, the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health announced that the first round has reached 580,770 children across Lebanon, 98.4% of the campaign’s target which includes children of all nationalities including Syrian refugee children under-5.
The two-round campaign was launched last month as part of a regional response to the Polio outbreak in neigbouring Syria. UNICEF provided 1.5 million doses of the polio vaccine in addition to logistical and operational support. UNICEF also launched a vast communication and social mobilization campaign to reach all targeted children all over Lebanon in addition to Syrian refugee children living in 387 informal tented settlements and collective shelters.
The second round of the campaign will last for five days from 6 – 10 December and aims to reach all children under-5 in Lebanon regardless of nationality and location.
“Polio doesn’t differentiate between rich or poor, all unvaccinated children are at risk. Parents and care-givers in Lebanon should see this vaccination campaign as a crucial opportunity to keep their children healthy and safe,” said Ms. Annamaria Laurini, UNICEF’s Representative in Lebanon, “we renew our call to all parents to get their children vaccinated and we also call upon all the medical professionals to join us in ensuring that Lebanon stays Polio free after having achieved this for the last 12 years.”
The first round of the vaccination campaign reached more than 95% of children under 5 in the majority of Lebanon’s 27 districts, leaving only five districts with lower coverage and one district with only 59% of targeted children reached.
While Lebanon has been, and still is, Polio-free; WHO announced on the 26th of November that two additional polio cases were confirmed in the neighbouring Syrian Arab Republic bringing the total of confirmed polio cases to 17.
“Mass immunization campaigns are the only way to prevent polio from spreading into Lebanon, but we should also be taking steps towards eradication of polio in the region,” said Dr. Azzedine Zeroual, UNICEF’s chief of health programmes in Lebanon, “our work does not stop with this campaign, we are already preparing for two mass vaccination campaigns next year.”
Lebanon hosts the largest number of families displaced by the Syrian crisis with more than 833,000 refugees registered or awaiting registration, over half of which are children, many living in informal tented settlements with little or no access to basic services.