News / Health

In Iraq, Mass Polio Vaccination Campaign Underway

FILE - Health workers are trying to vaccinate Iraqi youngsters against polio. Rose Mohammed, 4, receives a vaccine at a Baghdad kindergarten April 10, 2014.
FILE - Health workers are trying to vaccinate Iraqi youngsters against polio. Rose Mohammed, 4, receives a vaccine at a Baghdad kindergarten April 10, 2014.
Lisa Schlein

Iraq was free of polio for nearly 14 years – until March, when the crippling disease paralyzed two children and set alarm bells ringing.

Now, a massive immunization campaign is underway in the war-torn country. The effort – spearheaded by the Ministry of Health, with support from the World Health Organization and the United Nations' Children’s Fund – aims to reach more than 4 million children under age 5.

"Iraq has now become very vulnerable to a wider outbreak of this crippling and incurable disease," said WHO spokesman Paul Garwood, citing the country’s "relatively high number of unvaccinated children due to the insecurity and the difficulties in accessing families and children, especially in conflict zones."

U.N. health officials say hundreds of thousands of children are being displaced because of widespread violence. They say the children and their families often live in overcrowded, unsanitary facilities – conditions that put them at great risk of contracting infectious diseases. 

The United Nations estimates nearly 1.2 million people have become internally displaced since the beginning of the year. In the past few days alone, the U.N. reports almost 200,000 people – nearly half of them children – have been forced to flee their homes.

The number of displaced has increased dramatically since June, when the militant group calling itself the Islamic State accelerated its attacks against the government, seizing large swaths of territory in northern Iraq. 

Some 700,000 people have taken refuge in Iraq's Kurdistan region, including about 250,000 Iraqi children and 125,000 Syrian children. Dohuk governorate alone, which borders Turkey, now is home to about 400,000 displaced.

Militants impede vaccination campaign

Garwood says aid workers would like to immunize all Iraqi children against polio. But it’s unlikely they will be able to do so in areas controlled by militants.

Aid workers say they will not be able to immunize thousands of children from the minority Yazidi religious group, who are among 30,000 people stranded in the barren, blisteringly hot Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq. The Yazidis fled there after Islamic State militants threatened to kill them if they did not convert to Islam.  

It’s believed that polio spread to Iraq from conflict-ridden Syria, once a polio-free country that now has 36 children paralyzed by the disease.

Iraq is among seven countries in the region where WHO and UNICEF plan to conduct polio-immunization campaigns. The organizations aim to reach 25 million children.   

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs