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GENEVA/NEW YORK 5 October 2018 – More than 306,000 people in Yemen, including over 164,000 children under the age of 15, were vaccinated against cholera as part of a joint WHO-UNICEF campaign that concluded today. The number is expected to go up as reports of the final day of the campaign come in. The six-day vaccination effort, carried out by 3,000 health workers in three districts of Hudaydah and Ibb, was made possible by a pause in fighting – known as ‘Days of Tranquility’ – agreed by parties to the conflict.
“The success of this vaccination campaign shows what we can collectively achieve for children and families in Yemen when the fighting stops and humanitarian access opens up,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Yet the reality is that this is a quick fix. Only a comprehensive political resolution to the conflict can secure the wellbeing of children across the country over the long term.”
“It is unacceptable for people to die from preventable diseases,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We are grateful for the pause in fighting which enabled us to complete the cholera vaccination campaign. Vaccination is one of many health services people need. Ultimately, peace is the only road to health.”
Since April 2017, there have been over 1.2 million suspected cholera cases and 2,515 associated deaths in the country – one of the worst outbreaks in recent history. The vaccination is critical to preventing further spread of the disease. This campaign aimed to reach 540,000 in the three districts.
Before the end of the year, many more people will need to be vaccinated against cholera, and millions more children immunized against polio, measles, pneumonia and other preventable diseases.
Immunization is a matter of life or death for millions of people in Yemen, especially children. A child dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes. The country’s health system is hanging by a thread: most health workers have not been paid in two years, medical equipment is in short supply, and attacks on or near critical infrastructure such as water points and health facilities continue to be a daily reality. Widespread acute malnutrition among children is making them more vulnerable to diarrhoeal diseases.
UNICEF and WHO renew their call on parties to the conflict to abide by their legal obligations to stop attacks against civilian infrastructure and guarantee safe, unconditional and sustained access to all children in need in Yemen. Days of Tranquility are a positive step towards providing humanitarians with the space to reach vulnerable children and families and to help them survive one of the world’s most vicious humanitarian crises. They may also offer opportunities for broader peace building efforts, with the well-being and health of the people of Yemen at their centre.
Notes to editors:
- Last year, Yemen recorded over 1 million suspected cases of cholera and acute watery diarrhoea.
- The cholera vaccine requires two doses to provide protection for a longer period of time. The campaign that wrapped up yesterday delivered this second dose for the targeted districts in Hudaydah and Ibb. The first round was implemented in August. WHO, UNICEF and partners previously ran a campaign which covered cholera high risk districts in Aden.
- In this and previous cholera vaccination campaigns, the vaccines were sourced from the global Oral Cholera Vaccine stockpile, which is funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The campaign was also made possible by the World Bank, through the Emergency Health and Nutrition Project, and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.
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