Enhancing immunization programmes in Yemen

UNICEF is working closely with health authorities across the country to enhance immunization programs and provide lifesaving vaccines to all the Yemeni children

Ali Qasim Ali
UNICEF/2019/Mahmoud Al-Falsatiny

15 December 2019

Aden Yemen, 12 December 2019– Yemen is a country entering a fifth year of destructive war resulting in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. This dire situation has left the health sector on the brink of collapse; almost half of health facilities have stopped functioning; depriving thousands of children and mothers from accessing essential health care and services. With weakened health systems and WASH infrastructure and a collapsing economy disease, epidemics have spread throughout communities.

In response to all this challenges and threats, UNICEF has worked closely with health authorities across the country to enhance immunization programs and provide lifesaving vaccines to all the Yemeni children. These are a shield, protecting children against preventable diseases like polio, measles and cholera.

With the crumbling health system, however, maintaining suitable vaccine storage facilities remains a big challenge.

“One of the main challenges that was facing us as health workers in the immunization programme in Yemen was the unavailability of proper warehousing for the lifesaving vaccines. In addition, the shortage of electricity in the country leads to constant electricity cutoffs that spoil the vaccines” says Dr. Mohammed Saeed, Deputy Director of immunization programme in Aden governorate.

UNICEF/2019/Mahmoud Al-Falsatiny
One of the cold rooms for storing vaccines that was installed by UNICEF in Aden governorate

UNICEF, with generous support from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre) has transformmed the immunization programme in the country by providing cold rooms and installing solar-powered refrigerators. These interventions are essential for keeping vaccines at a constant temperature.

UNICEF/2019/Mahmoud Al-Falsatiny
Amani Ali while vaccinating a child in one of UNICEF supported health facilities in Aden

“We were suffering from limited storage capacities for vaccines inside this health facility, in addition to the constant cutoffs of electricity current, which affected our routine immunization programme” says Amani Ali who works at a health facility in Aden that was provided with a solar-powered refrigerator.

She adds that; " through providing us with solar refrigerators, we are no longer worried about the electricity shortage. We can now store a sufficient quantity of vaccines that can last for the whole month. We really are so grateful for UNICEF and KSrelief for this vital support that enhanced our ability to provide children with their necessary vaccines".

In a country where it is estimated that one child dies every ten minutes by preventable diseases, immunization programmes and campaigns are a vital part of saving lives. Adequate immunization programmes decrease child mortality rates and enhance the primary health care system.

Vaccinators and healthcare professionals spare no effort to ensure children are protected against preventable diseases and have every chance in life.

 “Sometimes I was upset when I would come to vaccinate my child in AlSheikh-othman health centre. The health workers would inform me that the vaccines doses had finished and no vaccines were available, but nowadays vaccines are always available and my child is receiving his timely routine vaccines. Thanks to all the efforts exerted to keep our children safe and healthy,” says Um Fareh after her child is vaccinated in AlSkeikh-othman health facility.  AlSkeikh-othman was provided with a solar refrigerator which has significantly improved the routine immunization programme in AlSheikh-othman district in Aden.

UNICEF/2019/Mahmoud Al-Falsatiny
Fareh Ahmed in the hand of his mother receiving his routine vaccination in AlSheikh-othman health facility.

UNICEF with support from KSRelief has distributed and installed 218 solar-powered refrigerators across 8 Yemeni governorates in the south of the country. In addition, three cold rooms were installed in Aden, Shabwa and Almahra governorates along with the construction of a new cold rooms chain in AlJumhuria hospital in Aden that will receive all new deliveries of vaccines arriving through Aden airport. This new cold rooms chain is going to enhance the warehousing capacities for vaccines across the country and will facilitate the provision of lifesaving vaccines to all the southern governates in Yemen.

UNICEF/2019/Mahmoud Al-Falsatiny
The new cold rooms chain in AlJumhuria hospital in Aden governorate.

Children in Yemen suffer from many health complications due to conflict and the collapse of health services. The situation for children is deteriorating every day but UNICEF with partners like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSRelief) are working day and night to alleviate their suffering and prevent the spread of disease.