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At a glance: Syrian Arab Republic

Syria launches national ‘catch-up’ immunization drive amid continued unrest

© UNICEF Syria/2011/Al Farah
A nurse vaccinates a girl at the Daraya National Hospital near Damascus.

By Razan Rashidi

DAMASCUS, Syrian Arab Republic, 17 October 2011- When the civil unrest began in Syria last march, the small agricultural town of Daraya was one of the first to be impacted. Due to the resulting insecurity, access to the health centers where routine immunization was usually provided became severely limited.


To address this problem, the Syrian Ministry of Health has launched a week-long ‘catch-up’ immunization drive, which aims to reach more than 200,000 children in all parts of Syria, especially targeting children who have missed routine immunization due to the national instability.

“UNICEF has always supported immunization campaigns in Syria, and today more than ever, it is important to keep supporting child rights to health care” said UNICEF Representative in Syria, Sherazade Boualia. “Children who have missed their routine immunization schedule need to be immediately vaccinated to ensure that the vaccination immunity of children in Syria is protected. Our plans and hope is that this life-saving operation will be successful.”

According to the latest family health survey conducted by the Syrian Central Bureau of Statistics and all UN agencies in Syria, Syria’s total immunization is 81.9 per cent for one-year-old infants. However, the current security situation is putting at risk the normal delivery of services such as routine immunization and thus endangering the lives of many children.

© UNICEF Syria/2011/Al Farah
Parents in the waiting room at the Daraya Health Center, on the first day of the National Immunization drive.

Raising immunization rates

“This is the first time my baby girl gets any sort of vaccination,” said Iman, a young mother. “I gave birth to her at the Daraya National Hospital but we had to rush back home immediately after delivery due to security reasons.”

The presiding nurse explained that hospitals usually referred their parents to health centers for immunization scheduling, however, these are not normal times.

“We hold the responsibility, as health workers, of educating parents about the importance of immunization,” she explained. “Personally I want to participate in guaranteeing stability and even increase in Syria’s immunization rates.”

Targeting vulnerable children

As a result of the national insecurity, some vaccine stocks have been lost and an earlier immunization drive had to be suspended leading UNICEF and MOH to focus on re-activating the cold chain and restarting the immunization campaign as soon as conditions permitted.

“It is vital to make sure that no matter what the security situation of the country is, basic services continue to reach out to the local communities and especially to children in affected areas,” stressed Ms. Boualia.

UNICEF is a global leader in vaccine supply, reaching 40 per cent of the world’s children. Immunization is a central part of UNICEF commitment to protecting the world’s most vulnerable children.

“This immunization week is targeting young children with vaccinations against tuberculosis, polio, whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, homophiles influenza, measles, rubella and mumps,” explained UNICEF Child Survival & Development Specialist, Dr. Iman Bahnasi. “The campaign also includes tetanus injections for women of childbearing age.”



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