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AMMAN, Jordan, 12 June 2014 – “Ta’alou! Ta a’lou! Abu Mohammed, Abu Abdel, bring your children! The polio vaccination team is here,” Fahed, a vaccination supervisor in Ajloun governorate, north western Jordan, shouts through his megaphone.

Jordan’s 4-day sub national polio vaccination campaign concluded yesterday. Beginning from 8th June, hundreds of vaccination teams from the Ministry of Health worked around the clock, travelling to the most remote and desolate locations in the country, vaccinating under-five children against polio.

Following the confirmation of 10 cases of polio in war torn Syria in October last year – the first in the country in 14 years – Syria and the surrounding six countries including Jordan, responded with a multi country response strategy through synchronized vaccination campaigns. The three national vaccination campaigns in Jordan in November and December 2013, and then in March 2014, organized by the Jordanian Ministry of Health, UNICEF, WHO and partners, at camps and communities, achieved over 90 percent vaccination coverage.

Two drops for every child, every where

However, with more confirmed polio cases reported in 2014 in Syria (one case) and Iraq (two cases), it has become imperative to ensure maximum vaccination coverage to kick polio out of the region.

“The target for polio vaccination is 100 percent. That means every child in Jordan should receive two drops of the oral polio vaccine,” said UNICEF Jordan Representative, Robert Jenkins. “The current campaign is specifically focused on reaching the most isolated and vulnerable children. I must commend the Ministry of Health, WHO, UNHCR and key partners for their efforts as preliminary reports are already showing great coverage,” he added.

“It has been 22 years since the last case of polio was found in Jordan. The recent cases in Syria and Iraq means that Jordan is now under increasing threat from this resilient disease, and we will continue supporting MoH in doing everything possible to stop polio,” said the WHO Acting Representative for Jordan, Dr. Basel Al Yousfi.

“UNHCR is enormously grateful for the extraordinary measures of the Ministry of Health and partners in ensuring every refugee child receives polio vaccine no matter where they are living. Prevention of polio is a critical protection activity for refugee children, the importance of which cannot be overemphasized,” said UNHCR Jordan Representative, Andrew Harper.

In preparation for the campaign, the Ministry of Health led a comprehensive micro planning exercise which identified 208 ‘high risk, hard to reach’ areas in the country’s 12 governorates targeting nearly 175,000 under-five children – including border communities, geographically isolated populations, refugees, mobile communities, and groups with the lowest coverage in previous vaccination campaigns.

Commitment of frontline workers

Despite the best planning and budgeting, the success of programmatic interventions, including vaccination campaigns, ultimately relies on the committed actions of teams on the ground.

“We drove through the desert for two hours with a vaccination team, to a mobile community living in tents, in the middle of nowhere. About eight children under-five received vaccination there,” said a UNICEF field monitor, Ghaith AlJalabneh, travelling with a team in the Ma’an region. “Every day, they are working extra hours, because of the additional travel time, to reach as many children as possible, no matter how far they are,” he added.

Balka (north western Jordan, bordering the West Bank) has over 7,000 under five children categorized as geographically ‘hard to reach’ children, one of the largest in the country. And the local knowledge and efforts of health workers and vaccination teams has been valuable in locating and reaching out to isolated communities. “We know the location and the families. So although it’s a long journey to reach just a few kids, I think we must save every child in our area from polio,” said a vaccinator from the Balka Health Directorate.

Partnership and coordination is critical

The Ministry of Health, UNICEF, WHO and UNHCR have been planning and coordinating with all partners to get maximum vaccination coverage – from training vaccinators and monitors, to planning cold chain, vaccine supply and logistics, to mobilizing partners and communities, and communicating with caregivers. There has also been great support from NGO partners like Save the Children, ACTED, Mercy Corps and the Norwegian Refugee Council in mobilizing communities and raising awareness about the campaigns

The results of the sub national campaign is expected to be released within the next ten days. The next sub national polio vaccination campaign is scheduled in August 2014.

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For more information, please contact:
Miraj Pradhan, UNICEF Amman, +962-79-021-4191, mpradhan@unicef.org
Liam Robertson, WHO Jordan, +962-79-720-3746, robertsonl@jor.emro.who.int
Frauke Riller, UNHCR Jordan, +962-79-684-4537, riller@unhcr.org

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