UNICEF and partners support the subnational polio immunization campaign in rural Damascus

Health services continue despite COVID-19 challenges, supported by UNICEF

UNICEF Syria
01 September 2020

Rural Damascus, Syria, 23 August 2020 – In rural Damascus, UNICEF and partners continue to tirelessly provide children with critical vaccines despite all challenges caused by the COVID19 pandemic.

One example is Zakya town, a home for around 40,000 people, including many displaced families. The passionate local health workers at the town’s health centre have braved years of conflict and never stopped providing children with health care and vaccines.

“There is a great sense of responsibility among people in the area concerning immunizations”

Osama, a UNICEF-supported health worker
a health worker speaking on loudspeaker
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Shahan
Osama, announces the subnational polio immunization campaign using a loudspeaker in Zakya, Rural Damascus.

Last month, a new subnational polio immunization campaign came at a time when the risk of missing out on life-saving vaccinations among children had increased due to the prevailing fear from contracting the coronavirus.

a girl receiving oral vaccine
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Shahan
Jana, 4, receives her polio vaccine at a UNICEF-supported health centre in Zakya, Rural Damascus.

“Once I heard about the campaign from my neighbour, I immediately approached the centre to vaccinate my daughter”

Jana's mother

During the five-day subnational polio immunization campaign, UNICEF provided oral polio vaccines to around 23,000 children under five years in 13 fixed centres and through 92 mobile health teams in Rural Damascus, thanks to a generous contribution by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and Gavi, the vaccine alliance.

“I’ve always respected the vaccination schedule of my five children; it’s important for their health and their future”

Khadija and Mouna's father
A health worker giving a child oral vaccine while masked
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Shahan
Khadija, 10, holds her 10 months-old sister, Mouna, while receiving her polio vaccine at a UNICEF-supported health centre in Zakya, Rural Damascus.
a father with two children showing their marked pinkies
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Shahan
Lilas, 4, and Mohammad, 3, show their marked pinkies indicating having received their polio vaccines at a UNICEF-supported health centre in Zakya, Rural Damascus.

“I didn’t let my fear from the coronavirus stop me from bringing my children to get this important vaccine”

Lilas and Mohammad's father

UNICEF supported the campaign through the provision of vaccines and cold chain equipment, including solar power refrigerators to ensure the safety of vaccines under all circumstances. Prior to the campaign, UNICEF-supported volunteers also went door-to-door informing families of the dates and locations of the campaign, answering their questions about the safety and importance of vaccines, and distributing informative brochures. Volunteers also engaged community leaders, school principals and caregivers in awareness raising sessions to encourage them to advocate for the campaign. Children also took part in fun activities, all designed around polio and the importance of protecting against it.

“I was hesitant to take my newborn baby to the health centre during the pandemic. It is really great that health workers brought the vaccines all the way to our neighborhood today”

Samiha's mother
A health worker giving a child oral vaccine while masked
UNICEF/Syria/2020/Shahan
40 days-old Samiha receives her polio vaccine by a UNICEF-supported health mobile team in Zakya, Rural Damascus, during the subnational polio immunization campaign