NEW YORK (May 3, 2020) – Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, most countries in the Middle East and North Africa continue with routine immunization for children while applying strict precautionary health measures. However, in some countries special vaccination campaigns have had to come to a halt as health workers were diverted to the response of COVID-19. As a result, one in five children or 10 million children under the age of five risk missing their polio vaccination while nearly 4.5 million children under the age of 15 risk missing their measles vaccination.
“Immunization for children is possible even in the time of COVID, using protective measures to protect the child, the mother and the vaccinator. It is absolutely critical that every child gets immunized against deadly diseases including polio, measles, diphtheria and hepatitis” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Precautionary measures during immunization campaigns include abiding to a disinfection process, using personal protective equipment including gloves, face masks and robes as well as avoiding overcrowding and adhering to social spacing in health care centers.
“Last year, UNICEF with partners reached nearly 34 million children with lifesaving vaccines including measles and polio across the region. This year, COVID-19 pandemic is overstretching health systems, as frontline workers are supporting the outbreak response. Despite that, nearly 1.5 million children on average are getting their vaccines every month” added Chaiban.
To facilitate vaccination campaigns for children across the region, UNICEF will continue to support health authorities and health workers across the region:
- Close monitoring of in-country vaccine stocks to avoid expiry of vaccines, especially in countries where routine vaccination or campaigns activities have been suspended.
- The procurement and shipment of vaccines especially to countries where borders have been closed or flights have been suspended.
- Despite challenges, movement restrictions and closures of borders and air space in most countries of the region, UNICEF was able to bring in 17.5 million doses of vaccines to the Middle East and North Africa since the beginning of the year. More shipments of vaccines and other lifesaving supplies are in the pipeline.
- Continue to support health authorities and health workers on the frontlines with delivery of critical medical, health and hygiene supplies, including personal protective equipment like surgical masks, gowns, gloves and goggles, COVID-19 testing kits, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, thermometers and the training of health workers on infection prevention.
Since 2017, UNICEF procured and shipped nearly half a billion doses of different types of vaccines, including vaccines against measles, mumps, rubella and polio to the Middle East and North Africa.
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The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to put children first. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. UNICEF USA supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when no children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.