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Measles vaccination campaign aims to immunize over 2.6 million Syrian children

© UNICEF/NYHQ2013-0920/Rashidi
A boy receives a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination at a school in Damascus in 2013.

DAMASCUS, Syria, 24 April 2015 - A 10-day measles immunization campaign is underway in Syria to protect children from this deadly disease. Launched on 19 April, the campaign is aimed at children between six months and five years of age. Vaccination will be provided in 1,209 health centres, and nearly 6,000 health staff and mobile teams are participating in the campaign.

By the end of 2014, 594 children had been diagnosed with measles. Of these, almost half were not immunized. Since the conflict began in 2011, immunization rates across the country have fallen from 99 percent to just 52 per cent due to lack of access and severe damage to health infrastructure – nearly one third of the country’s health centres are either damaged or destroyed. UNICEF estimates that over 230,000 children in hard-to-reach areas across the country will likely miss out due to the ongoing conflict.
“In situations of conflict and upheaval, measles can be deadly, especially for children, which is why we must do everything possible to get all children vaccinated wherever they are across the country,” said Hanaa Singer, UNICEF Representative in Syria. “As long as children are left under-reached, the risk of children falling ill and diseases spreading will continue”.

The campaign coincides with World Immunization Week which focuses this year on “Closing the Gap” – sending a direct appeal to the global health community to focus on vaccinating the most marginalized children.

In Syria, the focus during this campaign will be on reaching displaced children. UNICEF estimates there are more than 3.8 million children internally displaced across the country, many of whom were missed out in previous measles campaigns. At least 646,000 are under the age of 5.

Children receiving the vaccines will also be checked for signs of malnutrition and provided with vital supplements and referral to medical services as needed.

This is the second campaign in less than a year. In 2014, UNICEF and partners reached 840,000 children with vaccination against measles.

UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Health with the provision of vaccinations and syringes, cold chain equipment and the training of vaccinators. Mass media and community outreach activities are taking place including through the dissemination of short message services (SMS), community meetings, recreation activities and social media campaigns.


Access broadcast quality photos and b-roll of UNICEF's response to the Syrian crisis.

World Immunization Week
World Immunization Week 2015 (24-30 April) signals a renewed global, regional, and national effort by governments, partners and donors to accelerate awareness and demand for immunization by communities, and improve vaccination delivery services using as a framework the Global Vaccine Action Plan. Each year, immunization averts an estimated 2-3 million deaths from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and measles.  Polio, a crippling and deadly disease is on the verge of eradication. Despite the enormous effectiveness of immunization, nearly one-fifth of the world’s infants still miss out on basic vaccines. Nearly three-quarters of the children who have not received three doses of DTP-containing (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine during 2013 live in 15 countries: Afghanistan, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Syria, Uganda and Viet Nam. This year’s campaign focuses on closing the immunization gap and reaching all children with vaccines.

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 further information, please contact:
Juliette Touma, UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa, jtouma@unicef.org, +962-79-867-4628
Chris Tidey, UNICEF New York, ctidey@unicef.org +1 917 909-9542





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