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At a glance: State of Palestine

Occupied Palestinian territory: Massive campaign to protect children from mumps

© UNICEF oPt/2005/Awad
Eleven-year-old Saddam rests at home after being diagnosed with mumps.

By Monica Awad

WEST BANK, oPt (occupied Palestinian territory), 10 May 2005 - Saddam, an 11-year old boy, awoke on Tuesday morning as usual, ready for school. However, it was not a normal day for Saddam. He felt pain and swelling in his neck, and was feverish. Saddam instantly informed his mother, Safiyyeh, who advised him to go to school and seek the advice of the school principal.

The walk to Ein-Misbah Governmental School for Boys took Saddam more than 30 minutes. As he arrived in the school courtyard, he saw his school principal Akram. Akram was aware of a mumps outbreak among school-aged children in the West Bank and there had been several cases of mumps outbreak in his school. He immediately sent Saddam to a nearby clinic.

At the clinic, Saddam was diagnosed with mumps. He was asked to stay at home for at least 10 days. The following day Saddam was feeling very weak and his temperature increased. His mother cared for him, trying to help Saddam regain his health as quickly as possible. “Saddam is a very active boy. He is always out in the streets playing with his friends. I hate seeing him lying down, feeling sick,” said Safiyyeh.

© UNICEF oPt/2005/Sabella
A girl receives an immunization shot during a massive campaign to protect 1.2 million Palestinian children against mumps, measles, and rubella.

In order to protect Palestinian children like Saddam from mumps, measles, and rubella, UNICEF has quickly swung into action. Focusing on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, UNICEF is helping the Palestinian Ministry of Health carry out a national immunization campaign against these three infectious diseases.

The largest ever immunization campaign held in oPt (occupied Palestinian territory) is aimed at providing about 1.2 million primary, college and university students with a safe injection targeting all three diseases. The campaign also reaches out to children not enrolled in school.

“I miss going to school and seeing my friends,” said Saddam, lying prone on a floor mattress. Saddam, his parents, and five brothers and four sisters, live in Ama’ri camp in Ramallah - one of 19 refugee camps in the West Bank. His mother is a housewife; his father is a labourer in the vegetable market.

“I want to become a pediatrician when I grow up so that I can protect children from diseases like the one I have,” says Saddam.

The 3-4 week long immunization campaign is being led by the Ministry of Health in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education of the Palestinian Authority, UNICEF, and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Financial support is also being provided by the Government of Japan.



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