A day with a mobile health team in Aleppo

Protecting children against diseases

Basma Ourfali
A girl being vaccinated via mouth drops
UNICEF/Syria/2019/Al-Issa

01 May 2019

Aleppo, Syria, 30 April 2019- At 8 a.m., dressed in their white coats, the team of four health workers arrived at their destination in Helwaneyeh neighborhood of east Aleppo. The three vaccinators, Hussein, Fatimah and Aisha, got busy setting up the makeshift vaccination point while Faten walked through the alleys calling to parents through a megaphone to bring children under five to be vaccinated.

 

Health workers vaccinate a child while caregiver is helping them
UNICEF/Syria/2019/Al-Issa
Abdulsattar, 1, is vaccinated at the UNICEF-supported mobile vaccine point in Helwaneyeh neighborhood of east Aleppo during a campaign marking World Immunization Week.

“I don’t have the children’s vaccination records and I don’t know what vaccines they missed out on”

Aminah, sole caregiver of 5 grandchildren

 

 

People started flocking to the vaccination point including Aminah, who is now the sole caregiver for her five grandchildren after their parents’ death during violence in rural Aleppo. “I don’t have the children’s vaccination records and I don’t know what vaccines they missed out on,” she said, carrying one-year-old Abdulsattar while Nazlieh and Aisha clutched her dress. The health team vaccinated the three children and provided them with new vaccination cards to keep track of future vaccination dates.

 

A girl being vaccinated via shot in the arm
UNICEF/Syria/2019/Al-Issa
Jalilah, 1, is vaccinated at the UNICEF-supported mobile vaccine point in Helwaneyeh neighborhood of east Aleppo during a campaign marking World Immunization Week.

 

When violence subsided in 2017, families started returning to their destroyed homes in the eastern neighbourhoods of Aleppo after years of displacement. Violence had taken a toll on the health sector, forcing health workers to flee and destroying health facilities, leaving children with no access to vaccines.

Marking World Immunization Week, UNICEF together with WHO and partners launched an immunization campaign aiming to reach over 2.7 million children across Syria with life-saving vaccines, with a focus on children who had missed out on their vaccinations.

 

A girl being vaccinated via shot in the thigh
UNICEF/Syria/2019/Al-Issa
Shahd, 5, catches up on her vaccines at the UNICEF-supported mobile vaccine point in Helwaneyeh neighborhood of east Aleppo during a campaign marking World Immunization Week.
A baby being vaccinated
UNICEF/Syria/2019/Al-Issa
Two-months-old baby Hasnaa, is vaccinated at the UNICEF-supported mobile vaccine point in Helwaneyeh neighborhood of east Aleppo during a campaign marking World Immunization Week.

 

Thanks to the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Office of U.S Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF provided vaccines, cold chain equipment as well as a wide-reaching communication campaign aimed at raising caregivers’ awareness on the importance and safety of vaccines and reaching children who had missed out. The communication campaign included UNICEF-supported volunteers going door-to-door to talk to families, as well as community leaders and mobilizers to ensure their support and inform them about vaccination dates and locations.

 

"Parents have so many misconceptions about vaccines, they think that they affect their children’s health negatively. We take our time talking to them about the vaccines’ safety and their importance to children’s health"

Hussein, one of the volunteers on the campaign