Somalia kicks off four-day, countrywide polio immunization campaign

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Monday, March 25th 2019 (RBB News) – Somalia kicked off a countrywide polio campaign yesterday, as part of ongoing efforts to sustain polio immunity and protection in response to the outbreaks of two strains of poliovirus currently circulating.

The campaign, which runs from 24-27 March 2019, aims to reach as many as possible of Somalia’s 3.1 million children under age five. During this campaign, vaccinators are offering bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV), which protects against type 1 and type 3 polioviruses.

National Polio Immunization Days are a major healthcare drive and this one offers quality immunization to protect Somali children against polioviruses now and in the future. The campaign engages tens of thousands of Somalia’s polio community and health workforce:

More than 15,000 polio vaccinators traversing the country on foot, and by car, camel and donkey, knocking on doors and working tirelessly to reach as many children as possible;

3,500 social mobilizers, together with 146 regional and district social mobilization coordinators, visiting Somali homes to explain the immense benefits for children when they receive the polio vaccine every time it is offered;

More than 1,300 nomadic elders engaged for better reach of nomadic and rural settlements;

Hundreds of teams mapping out houses and institutions to visit, and delivering oral polio vaccines to health facilities in every district.

Highlighting the importance of the mass immunization effort, Somalia’s Federal Government Health Minister, HE Fauziya Abikar Nur said, “We are appealing to every parent, caregiver and adult in Somalia to ensure that their children, and every child they know, especially those that might have been missed being vaccinated last year, or were recently born, receive this polio vaccine. We all have a role to play to protect Somalia’s children, our legacy, from entirely preventable infections and paralysis.” “We are reaching out to partners in every field to support us in getting access to under-immunized children, especially from families on the move or residing in hard-to-reach areas to boost their immunity and protect them against polio,” added WHO Representative, Dr Mamunur Malik. “If you live in an area where vaccinators might find it difficult to reach you, please look for the nearest health facility or transit vaccination point available between 24-27 March.” Somalia has been free of wild poliovirus since 2014.

The two strains of polioviruses currently circulating were detected in late 2017 and have left 12 children paralyzed so far. To stop further spread of the polioviruses, under the leadership of Somalia’s national authorities at all levels and support from partners, WHO and UNICEF have conducted three national immunization campaigns and nine sub-national campaigns since December 2017. These campaigns delivered three different types of polio vaccine to convey protection against all types of polioviruses. “Despite these efforts, more can be done. Until the time when polio is eradicated from every country worldwide, there will always be a risk for countries like Somalia, where children’s polio immunity is low and where there are children who cannot regularly access routine immunization programmes,” said Jesper Moller, UNICEF Somalia Representative a.i.

“The only way to guard Somalia’s children from the devastating effects from polio infection is to build their immunity by taking advantage of every dose that is offered with each vaccination campaign and reporting all children with paralysis symptoms as soon as possible to local health authorities, to prevent other children from contracting the disease.” About UNICEF UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.