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Polio News - July 2014

30 July 2014

This month, the Government of Pakistan and partners continue to vaccinate internally displaced persons (IDPs) leaving North Waziristan due to military activity in the region and have immunized more than 400 000 individuals as of 16 July. As the programme works to vaccinate both displaced and host communities, polio spread within Pakistan and into Afghanistan is a serious risk. Meanwhile, in Iraq, partners are working to prevent the spread of disease in the face of escalating conflict, and new polio cases in Somalia underscore the challenge posed by difficult-to-reach populations.
In this issue:
• Pakistan refugee crisis: opportunity and risk
• Delivering health care to Iraq’s internally displaced
• Challenges reaching rural and pastoral communities in Somalia
Pakistan’s Refugee Crisis Creates Opportunity To Vaccinate, Risk Of Polio Spread
As a result of government military action in North Waziristan, some 900 000 people – more than 70% of whom are women and children – have been displaced throughout Pakistan and into Afghanistan. This mass movement provides the first opportunity to immunize a population that has been living under a vaccination ban by local leaders since June 2012, and the government and humanitarian partners quickly set up vaccination stations at transit points along the refugees’ main route. A total of 425 780 individuals have been vaccinated at transit vaccination posts in south Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) between 21 May and 16 July. In addition, over 1.5 million doses were administered to children under five years old during three rounds of house-to-house vaccination campaigns among the displaced and host communities.
Efforts are also underway to provide IDPs with essential services including food, water, shelter, medicine and cash grants. In and around Bannu district – where over 80% of IDPs are currently staying – authorities are administering polio drops alongside the measles vaccine, dispensing diarrheal disease kits and offering other health interventions for women and children.
Tens of thousands of families have fled across the border to seek refuge in Afghanistan’s Khost and Paktika Provinces. The displaced are receiving basic humanitarian aid including food and shelter, and upon entering the country, more than 35 000 children under 10 years old have been given oral polio vaccine.
While the polio outbreak-affected population from North Waziristan is now receiving vaccination, their movement carries the risk of polio spread to areas hosting these groups. Thus in the near term, the movement of IDPs across Pakistan and Afghanistan puts under-immunized pockets of children in both countries at risk of infection, threatening to cause a spike in cases. The intense vaccination activities taking place now are all geared towards protecting the displaced and their host communities from polio.
Humanitarian Partners Coordinating Vaccination Campaigns In Iraq
With over one million people now internally displaced in Iraq, relief agencies are working with the local government to scale up delivery of essential health care services to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and to provide food, water and shelter. The re-emergence of polio in Iraq after 14 years of being free of the disease has made polio vaccination a major health priority. Recently completed sub-regional campaigns in Baghdad and two other governorates – part of the broader immunization campaign across the Middle East – successfully reached 95.5% of the children under five years old. For more on the response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Iraq, read this recent blog post.
Difficulty Reaching Rural Populations In Somalia
Three new polio cases were confirmed this month in Mudug, home to hard-to-reach pastoral and rural populations in Somalia’s Puntland State. Although the country is in the midst of a series of vaccination campaigns, the social and political conditions in Mudug make it particularly challenging to implement and monitor immunization activities. The three who were paralyzed had never been vaccinated against polio. Special outreach activities are currently underway to reach these hard-to-reach populations
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