In efforts to completely annihilate polio around the world and mark the commemoration of World Polio Day, two United Nations agencies have partnered with the Iraqi Ministry of Health to launch a week-long nationwide campaign to immunize Iraqi children against the rampant viral disease. Promoting the slogan “two drops can change a life”, the campaign will attempt to vaccinate an estimated 5.8 million Iraqi children below the age of five.
Directly attacking the nervous system, polio remains a highly infectious viral disease targeting the global youth population. Young children especially below age five, remain at high risk for the rampant disease. With immediate and effective vaccinations worldwide, the eradication of polio proves both possible and likely in the next decade.
UNICEF Iraq Representative Peter Hawkins affirmed Iraq’s national strides to eliminate polio stating that,“The Government of Iraq is committed to polio eradication, and conducted 16 campaigns to that end in 2014 and 2015 as part of the Middle East Polio Outbreak response.” Immense progress has been made on Iraq’s vaccination frontier in the past two years. As of April of 2014, no new polio cases have been reported. In May of 2015, Iraq was then removed from the world’s list of active polio infected countries.
Although polio remains rampant across several countries in the Middle East including Pakistan and Afghanistan, Iraq has remained a pioneer for the complete and total eradication of this infectious disease. The Iraq Polio Partnership has conducted 2 national immunization rounds in February and April of this year. These attempts at total vaccination coverage, reached over 91% of the Iraqi population.
Combating possible resurgence in the country, the Iraqi Ministry of Health will target and focus specifically on vulnerable populations of children residing in Internally Displaced Persons and Syrian Refugee Camps, informal settlements, affected communities, and retaken areas. This month’s campaign will mobilize more than 25,000 vaccinators, traveling house to house, visiting with and vaccinating young children. Complicating efforts to aid at-risk youth, conflict has limited vaccination progress within high-risk populations. Making strides to end polio globally, Iraq has succeeded in maintaining high levels of vaccination coverage and surveillance across the country, especially in these war-ridden regions.
By KaLynn Wood
Photo Credit: UNICEF