A countrywide polio vaccination campaign targeting 3.1 million children under the age of five kicked off in Somalia Sunday with the Federal Government and aid agencies appealing to parents and caregivers to avail children for the crucial exercise.
The Ministry of Health in conjunction with the WHO and UNICEF said in a joint statement the vaccination campaign seeks to protect children from type 1 and 3 polioviruses which are still in circulating and responsible for 12 cases of paralysed children since Somalia was declared free of wild poliovirus in 2014.
“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,” health Minister Fauzia Nur said.” We all have a role to play to protect Somalia’s children, our legacy, from entirely preventable infections and paralysis.”
According to the statement, 15,000 polio vaccinators have been dispatched to various parts of the country while a further 3,500 social mobilisers together with 146 regional and district mobilisation coordinators are conducting the exercise.
WHO Representative Dr. Mamunur Malik appealed to partners and stakeholders to support in easing access so that as many children as possible are reached.
“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,” 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.”
Three national immunisation campaigns and nine sub-nation al campaigns have been conducted since December 2017. UNICEF Somalia Representative Jesper Moller said Somalia was still at risk of polio spread owing to low polio immunity among children and ack of regular immunisation programmes.
“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 Moller. “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.”
The campaign will conclude March 27, 2019