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In Jordan, Za'atari refugee camp hosts mass immunization campaign

By Toby Fricker

24–30 April is World Immunization Week. Immunization is a successful and cost-effective way to save children’s lives. UNICEF has been a driving force behind universal immunization since the 1980s – behind reaching each and every child.

UNICEF and its partners are now intensifying their efforts to ensure that the poorest and most disadvantaged children have access to immunization.

A mass vaccination campaign has been rolled out at Za’atari refugee camp to prevent illness among its vulnerable residents – and to prevent a regional outbreak of measles.

ZA’ATARI, Jordan, 25 April 2013 – As the sun rises over Za’atari refugee camp, gusts of wind blow sand high into the air. Families begin to emerge from between rows of tents that line the camp.

UNICEF correspondent Toby Fricker reports on a mass immunization campaign in Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan.  Watch in RealPlayer


It’s the first day of a mass vaccination campaign to protect children and young adults against measles and polio. These diseases can spread rapidly – and sometimes with fatal results – particularly in overcrowded conditions. Za’atari camp is home to more than 100,000 Syrians.

Nour Al Mohammad and her three children arrived one month ago from Homs, Syrian Arab Republic. They’ve turned up early to avoid the rush. “I’m bringing them here because I’m afraid they might catch something,” she says. “The woman in the neighbouring tent told me about the campaign.”

Preventing a regional outbreak

The target is to immunize at least 90,000 people against measles. Twenty-four thousand children under 5 years old will receive polio drops. Some 22,000 of these children aged between 6 and 59 months will also be given vitamin A to help prevent acute respiratory infections and diarrhoea.

© UNICEF Video
UNICEF and its partners organized a mass measles and polio vaccination campaign in the camp after measles cases were reported in Jordan, as well as Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic.

Jordan’s Ministry of Health, with support from UNICEF, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, is organizing the campaign, following reports of cases of measles in Jordan and in neighbouring Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic.

“This campaign today is very important, because we don’t really know the coverage of measles immunization in the camp, says UNICEF Health Specialist Dr. Carine Boyce.

“We have noticed cases across the region, so that’s why we really need to do this campaign now.”

Vaccinating young adults

Inside the vaccination tents, which are located across the camp, young mothers and fathers are also receiving the jabs.

© UNICEF Video
A child receives vaccinations for measles and polio at Za'atari camp. The camp is home to more than 100,000 Syrians who have fled conflict in their country.

After his two children have been vaccinated, Mohammad Nasa, 27, has a measles shot. “It’s an insurance for the children and us. It’s very important for everyone to get vaccinated, especially those living at the camp,” he says.

Flags, flyers and posters encouraged thousands to turn out on the first day.  Syrian volunteers spread the word tent to tent.

“It is crucial that this campaign works, as measles is an extremely contagious disease and its potential spread could be devastating amongst people already living in vulnerable conditions,” says UNICEF Representative in Jordan Dominique Hyde.

Covering northern Jordan

After Za’atari camp, the immunization team is expected to vaccinate both Jordanians and Syrian refugees across northern Jordan.

More than 444,000 Syrian refugees are living in Jordan. Preventing any further outbreak relies on reaching the Syrian refugees living in urban areas, as well as the host communities. Such coverage will significantly reduce the risk of spread of this deadly disease.



UNICEF Photography: Immunization

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