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At a glance: Syrian Arab Republic

National Immunization Week in Syria aims for 100 per cent coverage

© UNICEF/2010/Sixmith
A UNICEF-trained health-care worker immunizes a baby during Syria's eighth National Immunization Week.

By Rob Sixsmith

DAMASCUS, Syrian Arab Republic, 30 April 2010 – Wide-eyed children waited with their mothers as UNICEF-trained health workers prepared to administer their vaccines.

UNICEF is providing increased support for the country’s eighth consecutive National Immunization Week. The campaign’s aim is to provide 100 per cent coverage to all children within the next few years.

Mobile vaccination teams

While other parts of the globe have succumbed to renewed outbreaks of polio, Syria is determined not to let this occur. This year’s immunization programme has expanded into remote and difficult-to-reach areas by means of mobile teams.

© UNICEF/2010/Sixmith
A Syrian child receives oral polio vaccine during National Immunization Week.

Two such communities, Haran Al Owamid and Autaya villages, have had limited access to health care in the past. These areas host internal migrants seeking refuge from drought-stricken northern Syria. Encampments in the villages are typified by unsanitary conditions and lack of safe water.

“I saw the ambulance and heard the nurses,” said Nabile, 12, a local boy. “So I brought my brother, as I don’t think he’s had any injections.” 

Nabile added that the smaller child was frightened and kept trying to run away. “It’s for his health,” he said.

Reaching record numbers

The immunization week is targeting young children with vaccinations against polio, measles, rubella and tetanus. This year’s campaign also includes tetanus injections for women of childbearing age.

© UNICEF/2010/Sixmith
The National Immunization Week campaign aims to reach all Syrian children, including those in the most remote areas of the country.

“[I] hate needles. I’ve never had a Tetanus injection before,” said a 27-year-old woman named Rwaah. “But I want to be protected for when I do get married and pregnant. The health workers have advised me to make sure I take all the doses – so that it actually works.”

Thanks to the campaign’s advertisements in newspapers, on television and billboards, and even in text messages, UNICEF-trained vaccinators are inundated with record numbers of people seeking immunization. Public health centres and mobile teams are busier than ever delivering vaccines to difficult-to-reach regions.

UNICEF will support Syria throughout the campaign and as it continues to work toward universal vaccination coverage in the future. “We’re so busy now,” said one health worker involved in the effort. “We’re covering the entire area and still they’re coming. This is huge.”



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