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In Iraq, vaccination campaign reaches thousands of Syrian refugees

© UNICEF Iraq/2013/Abdulmunem
A child receives a vitamin A supplement during a UNICEF-supported measles and meningitis vaccination drive at the Domiz Syrian refugee camp in Iraq.

By Karin Ulin

UNICEF and partners conducted a vaccination campaign for Syrian refugees at Domiz camp, Iraq, to ensure that measles and meningitis outbreaks be kept under control.

DOHUK, IRAQ, 29 April 2013 – “I have just taken my shots, and I did not cry!” says the girl to her brothers and sisters. She holds an ice cream in her hand.

This girl is one of thousands of children who received measles and meningitis shots during a mass vaccination campaign held at the Domiz camp for Syrian refugees in northern Iraq.

Increased risk of disease

Domiz camp currently hosts more than 35,000 refugees from the Syrian Arab Republic, and more arrive every day. The crowded conditions put residents of the camp at increased risk of – and vulnerability to – communicable diseases.

To ensure that measles and meningitis outbreaks be kept under control, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the local Department of Health in Dohuk, with support from UNICEF, organized a mass vaccination campaign over a period of six days.

Camp-wide campaign

In response to a call for immunization made by UNICEF’s social mobilization teams in the camp, the majority of the eligible population took advantage of the campaign. In total, health practitioners in three immunization tents gave measles shots to 19,303 people aged between 6 months and 30 years. The meningitis vaccine was administered to 17,663 people between 2 and 30 years of age.

© UNICEF Iraq/2013/Abdulmunem
More than 19,000 children and adults between the ages of 6 months and 30 years were vaccinated against measles and meningitis during the campaign.

“Measles and meningitis are two highly contagious diseases with long-lasting effects on children,” said UNICEF Representative to Iraq Dr. Marzio Babille during a visit to the camp. “It is vital that we ensure that these children, who are already going through difficult times, get a chance to grow up healthy.”

Strain on health services

The Dohuk Department of Health, in cooperation with MSF, runs a health clinic that provides general health services in the camp. But, the increased number of refugees coming in puts enormous pressure on the services provided.

To continue providing vital health services to refugee children and mothers within the camp and in host communities, funds are urgently needed to assist with the establishment of two vaccination units. These facilities will provide measles vaccinations to newcomers to the camp, in addition to routine vaccinations for all children in the camp.

UNICEF is also supporting the Dohuk Department of Health to address nutrition in children under 5 years old. Among the efforts are promoting exclusive breastfeeding and establishing ‘baby huts’ near existing health units in which mothers can comfortably breastfeed their infants away from the crowded conditions in the camp. 

The immunization campaign held at the Domiz camp is part of a larger effort undertaken by UNICEF and partners to ensure that children and young adult refugees from the Syrian Arab Republic are protected from diseases that can spread rapidly in times of conflict and displacement.



UNICEF Photography: Immunization

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