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Mass vaccination campaigns in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey amid measles outbreaks

2013-04-30

AMMAN / GENEVA, 30 April 2013 – UNICEF and partners have stepped up vaccination campaigns in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey amid a number of measles outbreaks in a region already struggling to provide humanitarian assistance to millions of people affected by the Syrian crisis.

“With large population movements and the breakdown of regular health services in Syria, additional precautions are required to ensure that children are protected against killer diseases like measles no matter where they are,” said Mahendra Sheth, UNICEF Regional Health Advisor.  “Immunization is one of the most cost-effective tools we have available.”

Since the start of the crisis more than two years ago, over 1.4 million Syrian refugees have fled into neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt, with a current average of  up to 8,000 Syrians fleeing the country daily. 

In addition, some 4.25 million Syrians have been internally displaced – nearly half of them children. Many live in cramped and unsanitary conditions where disease can easily spread.  The on-going conflict has seriously damaged the health system including the national routine immunization programme.

In Iraq, since December 2012, about 332 cases of measles have been reported in the northern Domiz refugee camp.  In Lebanon, since January, some 300 cases of measles have been reported by the Ministry of Health, while Syria has registered 133 confirmed cases.  In Jordan, at least five cases have been identified among Syrian refugees in the densely populated Za’atari refugee camp.  Meanwhile in Turkey over the past year, there have been some 3,000 to 4,000 reported measles cases, including 300 among Syrian refugees.     

In all the countries, UNICEF, working with the Ministries of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, has increased vaccination campaigns to help ensure that all children are protected against disease.  In Syria, some 550,000 children have been vaccinated by Ministry of Health teams recently as part of a national campaign that is targeting 2.5 million children with the support of UNICEF and the WHO. In Lebanon, 462,000 Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian children have been vaccinated this year alone.

In Jordan, a mass vaccination campaign at Za’atari camp has immunized 60,000 refugees against measles. A national vaccination campaign is expected shortly.

Meanwhile, in Iraq’s Domiz camp, about 19,300 refugees from the age of six months to 30 years were vaccinated with the support of UNICEF.  In Turkey, the Ministry of Health has stepped up immunizations in eight provinces where most of the around 292,000 Syrian refugees are concentrated.

These campaigns coincide with World Immunization Week, which promotes global immunization as one of the most effective tools to keep children safe from deadly disease. 

About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries – more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.