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Iraq completes first-ever National Immunization Week

© UNICEF Iraq/2010/MoH
A UNICEF-supported mobile health team registers children for vaccinations in Iraq's Najaf Governorate.

By Rob Sixsmith

BAGHDAD, Iraq, 6 May 2010 – Against a difficult backdrop of conflict and insecurity, important gains have been made by Iraq’s first-ever National Immunization Week. Targeting children under the age of five who had not been properly immunized, events held across the country led to greater health awareness and education.

Partners supporting the effort – including UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health – are now looking toward the future.

Investing in health

In collaboration with the Health Directorate in Kirkuk Governorate, UNICEF held a two-day policy workshop highlighting the extent of political will behind attempts to boost Iraq’s Expanded Programme of Immunization. Partners discussed future coordination between ministries and non-governmental organizations, as well as an intensified media campaign designed to spread the central messages of National Immunization Week.    

© UNICEF Iraq/2010/MoH
A UNICEF-supported health worker takes the National Immunization Week message to the people of Iraq.

“Immunization is not merely a need, but a child’s basic right,” said Kirkuk Governor Abdul Rahman Mostafa. “I invite everyone in the government and the community to invest in our children.”

For some at UNICEF, National Immunization Week demonstrated that the central messages of their work were gradually beginning to crystallize into policy.

“It was really exciting to hear the governor talking about children’s rights and investing in their health and development,” said UNICEF Iraq Health and Nutrition Specialist Dr. Taha Al Mulla. “The advocacy efforts of our previous visit to Kirkuk have obviously started to bear fruit.”

Crucial gains

The importance of Iraq’s National Immunization Week was felt most clearly by those mothers and children who have suffered at the sharp end of Iraq’s challenging conditions.

© UNICEF Iraq/2010/MoH
Iraqi children, many of whom have experienced considerable disruption in their health care over the course of their lives, meet a health worker during National Immunization Week.

“Even in the worst periods of conflict and insecurity, I didn’t forget the vaccination times of my three kids,” said Um Zaid, a mother from Baghdad.

UNICEF and partners made crucial gains for mothers in all 18 Iraqi governorates. In particular, they have made strides in pushing the immunization programme out to remote, low-coverage areas.

By training health workers and mobilizing the support of Iraq’s community leaders – including clerics and the heads of women's and youth groups – UNICEF is helping to lay essential building blocks for achieving 100 per cent vaccination coverage in the years ahead.



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