UN agencies have kicked off a four-day vaccination drive against polio in Somalia’s Puntland and Somaliland, targeting more than 945,000 children under five years of age.
The campaign, which is backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), targets all children in 12 districts in Somaliland and nine districts in Puntland.
Werner Schultink, UNICEF Somalia Representative, said the only way to protect children from all polioviruses is to ensure they receive multiple doses of polio vaccine, through campaigns and health facilities where possible.
“Caregivers need to ensure children receive this vaccine when it is available,” Schultink said in a joint statement issued in Mogadishu.
Somaliland, Puntland and some other states in Somalia are currently experiencing outbreaks of two strains of poliovirus. Each strain requires a different vaccine.
The UN agencies said concurrent to the polio campaign, polio health workers have also been working to vaccinate more than 650,000 people aged one year and above against cholera in high-risk districts of Somalia.
The agencies said 3,160 vaccinators will carry out the exercise along with 677 team supervisors and 1,558 social mobilizers sharing messages on vaccination and children’s health.
The UN agencies said 15 children have been infected with the polioviruses so far, since outbreaks began. The last case of wild poliovirus in Somalia was witnessed in August 2014.
Mamunur Rahman Malik, WHO Representative for Somalia, said its vital that parents ensure their children receive this vaccine, because it builds immunity against a specific strain of poliovirus circulating in the country.
“I call upon all caregivers in the areas being covered in this campaign to please ensure children are at home and accept the oral polio vaccine when it is offered. Oral Polio Vaccines are stored and administered safely, and can save children from paralysis and permanent disability,” Malik said.