“Aassir, Aassir!”

By Krystel Abimeri

ZA’ATARI, Jordan, 28 October 2013 – Another long day in Za’atari, the second day of a UNICEF-supported polio vaccination campaign.

UNICEF staff are getting ready to hit the streets of the camp to check on the vaccine doses and the cold chain equipment. Community health workers from International Relief and Development Jordan (IRD) and International Organization for Migration (IOM) are divided into 46 teams to cover all 12 districts of the camp. Each team is composed of a vaccinator, a crowd controller, a registrator and a supervisor. 

Following news of a polio outbreak in Syria, and part of an upcoming wider national immunization campaign, efforts are under way to vaccinate all children under five in the camp against polio.

A second vaccination round is scheduled for late November, and will also include measles and rubella jabs for children aged 6-months to 20 years.

Tally sheet and spray can in hand, cold chain box on one shoulder, community health workers go tent to tent, caravan by caravan, to make sure all children under five are reached. One little girl gets scared and starts crying as she’s about to receive her oral drops.

“Aassir, aassir!”

(meaning it’s juice! in Arabic) tells her Ihssan, the team supervisor. He’s one of the many refugees in Za’atari recruited by IRD to do the vaccine rounds.

“Knowing I can make good use of my skills while helping my community makes me happy.”

The process is straight-forward but requires extra attention as not all tents and caravans are always displayed in a straight line: administrating the polio vaccine, marking the little finger, filling in the tally sheet, and finishing off with an OPV tag (Oral Polio Vaccination) on the tent. Not a single step can be missed in order to allow UNICEF staff and health workers to keep track of the numbers.

In Jordan, UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Health, in partnership with the World Health Organization, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and International Organization of Migration (IOM) to ensure that the country is ready to respond. Polio vaccinations are included in Jordan’s routine Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI).

UNICEF Jordan’s Head of Health and Nutrition Mohammed Amiri handles the number of ice packs with extra care:

“It’s a very hot day in Zaatari. We need to make sure the cold chain is respected, and keep an eye on the VVM (Vaccine Vial Monitor). If the VVM is not ok, the vaccine needs to be immediately dismissed.”

At the end of the day, 8,620 children were vaccinated, bringing the total to 18,821 for the three-day campaign. Parents were happy, and children ran around, showing off proudly their marked little fingers.

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