Providing routine vaccines to reach all children in crisis-hit Lebanon

Children around the world missed out on life-saving vaccines over the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF, with EU funding, is providing essential routine vaccines with the aim of reaching all children in Lebanon

UNICEF Lebanon
Ahmad, 5 years after getting vaccinated
UNICEF2022/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon
26 April 2022

Millions of children around the world missed out on life-saving vaccines over the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Lebanon, an economic meltdown has compounded the severe disruptions. UNICEF, with EU funding, is providing essential routine vaccines with the aim of reaching all children in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s children are increasingly at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, diphtheria, pneumonia and polio, as a convergence of crises has led to a sharp drop in routine vaccination rates.

Determined to reverse the downward trend, UNICEF, with funding from the EU, is providing essential routine vaccines to more than 800 primary health-care facilities. The aim is to reach all children in Lebanon with essential routine vaccines throughout 2022, in line with the national immunization calendar. The vaccines, which are safe and approved by the World Health Organization, are given free of charge when administered by a registered nurse.

Marwa, a mother of two
UNICEF2022/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon
A child getting examined by the doctor at the PHC
UNICEF2022/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon

“In these difficult economic times, I’m happy to be able to see my children’s health protected at this clinic,” said Marwa, a mother of two young children, as she awaited her turn at the Naqaa Primary Health Care Center (PHCC) in Beirut, one of the facilities receiving vaccines from UNICEF.  “I can’t afford to take them to a private clinic, but I’m happy to bring my children here. The standards are the same as any private clinic.”

“I encourage all the parents I know to ensure their children are fully vaccinated,” Marwa added. This is also the goal of a mobile app launched in March 2022 by the Ministry of Public Health. The app, called ‘Sohatona’, sends parents alerts to remind them of upcoming scheduled immunizations and a list of contacts for nearby primary health-care centres.

“Vaccination is vital for every child, as it protects them from many illnesses. It’s good to see that now, regardless of whether their parents have money or not, vaccines are accessible to all,” said

Khayriyah, who was also at the Naqaa PHCC with her children.

"Now, at least I can protect them against diseases without worrying about the cost"

Using mobile vaccination units, the Ministry of Public Health partnered with UNICEF and the Lebanese Red Cross to vaccinate 35,000 children who missed their essential routine vaccines. They aim to reach a further 100,000 with essential routine vaccines before the end of 2022. Vaccinated children will be also referred to primary health-care facilities to complete their vaccinations.

As the compound crisis leaves more and more families struggling to survive, parents are often forced to choose between food or health care.

“I can’t afford to feed my children properly any longer,” said Nour. “With so little money, there’s no way I could pay for their vaccines either. Now, at least I can protect them against diseases without worrying about the cost.” She too took her children to the Naqaa health centre for vaccination.  “This is my first visit to the clinic.”

Iman, a nurse at Naqaa PHCC
UNICEF2022/Fouad-Choufany/Lebanon

Iman, a nurse at the PHCC, said she noticed a steep decline in the number of parents following childhood routine vaccination schedules. While the clinic is now busier than ever and more parents can access immunization services, “still too many children aren’t receiving their essential immunizations,” she said. “Even though we give the vaccines for free, some parents don’t have enough money to pay for the transport to get here.”

UNICEF’s timely response also involves procuring more than 700 solar-powered refrigerators to replace carbon-fueled and non-repairable equipment. This ensures clean and green energy keeps vaccines safe and increases trust in PHCCs vaccination services.

UNICEF continues to work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented crisis in Lebanon to reach every child with life-saving vaccines.