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Press centre

Joint press release

Amid ongoing conflict, Iraq successfully implements polio campaign supported by UNICEF and WHO

ERBIL / AMMAN, 1 September 2014 – A mass polio immunization campaign across Iraq earlier this month succeeded in reaching 3.75 out of the  4 million children under the age of 5, despite the ongoing violence  sweeping much of the country.

The five-day campaign between 10 and 14 August was organised by the Iraqi Ministry of Health with the support of UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO), and was part of the national response to the re-emergence of the poliovirus in Iraq earlier this year. The campaign comes at a time when the number of displaced children continues to increase on a daily basis. Approximately 65,000 internally displaced children were vaccinated in the Kurdish Duhok Governorate alone.

“We are really pleased with the outcome of this campaign,” said UNICEF Iraq Representative Dr. Marzio Babille. “The commitment of the health teams involved – often working in incredibly difficult circumstances – is really to be commended.” 

The campaign, which aimed to reach children in 14 Diretorates of Health in 12 Iraqi Governorates, was made particularly challenging by the internal displacement of nearly 1.8 million people since the beginning of the year, of whom half are estimated to be children. However, health authorities were able to use pre-positioned stocks of vaccine and other supplies to ensure a high number of children were reached.

“In a country going through one emergency after another, a successful polio immunization campaign spreads hope that humanitarian work can achieve its goals,” said Dr. Syed Jaffar Hussain, WHO Iraq Representative.

The confirmation of two cases of polio in Iraq in February and April this year ended a 14-year period during which the country remained polio-free. With a relatively high number of unvaccinated children due to difficulties in accessing families and children, especially in slums and conflict zones, experts say Iraq has now become vulnerable to a wider outbreak of the crippling and incurable disease.

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit: www.unicef.org

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For more Information, please contact:

Jeffrey Bates, UNICEF Iraq, Tel: +964-780-1964-524, jbates@unicef.org

Juliette Touma, on mission to UNICEF Iraq, Tel: +964-780-9-288-265, jtouma@unicef.org

Ajyal Al-Sultany, WHO Iraq, Tel: +964 7809 269 506, sultanya@who.int




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