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MSF helps vaccinate tens of thousands of displaced Syrian children

2 min
Photograph by Roaa Hasan
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West Aleppo, 7 May 2018 — Since 2016, west Aleppo countryside, in northern Syria, has been one of the main destinations for internally displaced persons (IDPs) evacuated from besieged areas, including east Aleppo City, Homs, South Hama and, recently, East Ghouta.

Tens of thousands of IDPs in the west Aleppo countryside live in a mix of formal and makeshift camps, without basic services such as clean water, food and sanitation. Healthcare services are insufficient for their needs, leaving people inside the camps more susceptible to infectious diseases, such as meningitis, measles and pneumonia. Children are especially vulnerable.

Photograph by Roaa Hasan
Nurse vaccinating a children with Pneumococcus pneumonia antigen that is first time given to Syrian children in MSF vaccination campaign in west Aleppo country side. Photograph by Roaa Hasan.

MSF has been working in west Aleppo since 2012, supporting health facilities in various capacities. MSF has also provided emergency support to the successive waves of IDPs who have arrived from various areas inside Syria. Among the IDP groups, a primary focus is on vaccinations to help reduce the spread of preventable diseases.

On 7 April 2018, MSF, in partnership with the Syrian Immunization Group (SIG) and the Aleppo Health Directorate, launched a mass vaccination campaign in West Aleppo to immunise children against measles, rubella, and pneumococcal disease and its complications, which include meningitis and respiratory infections.

Dr Maria Aparecida Rodriguez Rado, MSF´s medical coordinator in north Syria describes the importance of vaccinations, “Vaccination is an effective way to prevent infectious diseases and is especially important where a health system has been disrupted, as it has in Syria. After many years of conflict, there are children without any vaccination coverage. All of them are at risk from several diseases and an outbreak can occur.”

Photograph by Roaa Hasan
Mothers in the health center in Al-Atareb wait to get their children immunized with a multi-antigen vaccine provided by MSF in west Aleppo countryside. Photograph by Roaa Hasan.

The campaign lasted for 10 days and covered more than 119 communities in different cities, villages and camps. Overall, more than 51,000 children were vaccinated. However, the continuing conflict posed certain challenges for MSF teams. “Some teams had to use motorcycles instead of cars to circumvent closed roads because of ongoing violence in certain areas,” said Moa’az Diab, MSF logistics manager in the region.

Dr Angela Martinez Gamero, MSF medical referent adds, ¨We are redoubling our efforts to ensure all children in the west Aleppo countryside are covered. One of the most important objectives in providing healthcare to displaced people is vaccination.”

Photograph by Sonia Verma
A mother holds her son´s hand while a nurse is vaccinates him as part of a MSF vaccination campaign in west Aleppo countryside targeting children from two months to five years old in Kafer Karmeen Health center. Photograph by Sonia Verma.

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