ERBIL, Iraq, 19 June 2014 – UNICEF and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorities have agreed to urgent measures to prevent the spread of polio and other diseases among the large number of children displaced by continuing violence into the Kurdish Region of Iraq.
Dr. Rekawt H.Rashid Karim, KRG Minister of Health and Dr. Marzio Babille, UNICEF Iraq Representative, met on Tuesday and agreed to expand immunization to include host populations, displacement camps and border crossings.
KRG officials estimate that approximately 300,000 people have fled into Erbil and Dohuk Governorates since the onset of violence in Mosul and have largely settled in host communities in urban areas and rural villages.
This crisis is compounded by the reappearance of polio in Iraq, which recorded its first new case this year, fourteen years after the country eliminated polio through mass immunization campaigns. Poor routine immunization and inability to reach children with immunisation outreach services within conflict zones and among displaced populations renders Iraq and the region extremely vulnerable to a large polio outbreak.
Dr. Babille strongly advocated for expanding immunization services against polio beyond the Syrian refugee camps, which was the primary focus of the four day campaign that started on 15 June, as well as the positioning of polio immunization teams at transit points where displaced populations cross into or out of the Kurdistan Region. UNICEF is also calling for rapid efforts to protect displaced children against measles and provide Vitamin A. Dr. Marzio Babille spoke about supporting the Ministry with vaccines supplies and also with technical expertise on social mobilization and external communication.
In a follow up meeting held on 18 June, the Minister agreed to support polio and measles vaccinations at checkpoints, camps and border crossings, with a catch up polio campaign tentatively planned from 29 June to 3 July, targeting more than 700,000 children under the age of five. This will be the first time in which Iraq has organized a mass public health campaign during the Holy Month of Ramadan.
About UNICEF Iraq UNICEF has been in Iraq since 1983 working and supporting the Government of Iraq to ensure Iraqi children survive and realize their full potential. Maintaining its comparative advantage in health, nutrition, education, water and sanitation, child protection and social policy, UNICEF supports the development of child friendly policies, building the capacity of institutions that deliver essential services to children and convening all duty bearers to realize the full rights of Iraqi children. Via a network of staff and partners, UNICEF’s programmes improve basic health services, safeguard quality education, develop water and sanitation systems, protect children from abuse, violence, and exploitation, and meet the needs of the most deprived and vulnerable. For more information about UNICEF and its work for the children of Iraq, please visit: http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/iraq.html or www.unicef.org/mena.
About UNICEF UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work, please visit: www.unicef.org