KSRelief, UNICEF push mission to vaccinate 1.14 million Yemeni children

The project’s objective is to reduce the rates of disease and death that can be prevented by vaccination and limit the spread of diseases.
Saturday 20/07/2019
Saving lives. A Yemeni child receives a vaccination at Aljomhori hospital in Yemen.(KSRelief)
Saving lives. A Yemeni child receives a vaccination at Aljomhori hospital in Yemen.(KSRelief)

DUBAI - A humanitarian project aimed at improving the health of Yemeni children has extended its vaccinations capabilities.

Led by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief), which serves people in 44 countries, and UNICEF, the initiative kicked off in April 2018.

It was recently extended by six months to further develop the immunisation coverage in Yemen, with the aim to vaccinate 1.14 million children in every Yemeni governorate at a cost of $4.8 million.

The project’s objective is to reduce the rates of disease and death that can be prevented by vaccination and limit the spread of diseases.

UNICEF said extensive vaccination coverage provides protection to children and communities against diseases such as polio or measles. “With the contribution from KSRelief, UNICEF has been able to improve the delivery of vaccination services and increased coverage, especially for children under one and women of child-bearing age (15-49 years), thus saving lives of children and mothers,” a UNICEF statement said.

The statement said that, in 2018 and 2019, KSRelief support had benefited more than 211,000 children with vaccination against five life-threatening diseases. In addition, more than 4.2 million children aged 6 months-5 years living in high-risk districts were vaccinated against measles and rubella.

A total of 1,900 health workers were trained on immunisation and hygiene promotion so they could raise awareness in communities, including through door-to-door visits.

The programme’s activities include improving immunisation services at fixed and mobile sites for basic vaccinations against nine vaccine-preventable diseases, and measles and rubella vaccinations; while providing the supply of vaccinations and transportation of supplies.

The project will provide 70 solar-powered refrigerators, three cold rooms and seven sets of equipment for solar refrigerators. It is to build and outfit a central maintenance workshop and five maintenance workshops in five governorates, while training 2,000 health workers on implementing immunisation programmes and 50 middle-management health-care supervisors.

An expected 600 field visits will take place, with the distribution of 1 million brochures and 24 health education lectures. So far, 75% of the programme is complete by vaccinating children under the age of 1 with the Penta3 vaccine.

“This vaccine provides protection from several life-threatening diseases, including diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis, Haemophilus and Influenza B,” said Dr Abdullah Al Moallem, KSRelief’s head of Health and Environmental Aid. “Through this grant, 113 solar direct drivers and 13 cold rooms were provided and 1,900 health workers and supervisors were trained in various programmes and in immunisation and public hygiene promotion.”

Via vaccination units and the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) from the World Health Organisation, approximately 4 million children aged 6 months-5 years were vaccinated against measles and rubella.

“The centre will implement EPI activities and obtain related supplies in accordance with the implementation plan,” Moallem said.

“KSRelief will also establish a central maintenance and repair workshop and a cold room and warehouse are currently being constructed in Aden and Sana’a. This is one of KSRelief’s many programmes to support Yemen’s health sector to protect the health of all Yemenis and I hope that the desired objectives will be achieved through the extension of this vital programme.”

UNICEF said the situation remains dire and is likely to worsen if the current circumstances persist or worsen. “In Yemen, a child dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes,” a spokesman said.

“One woman and six newborns die every two hours from complications during pregnancy or at childbirth in Yemen. The health-care system is in tatters due to years of underdevelopment, poverty and intermittent conflict."

The conflict has pushed the health system to the brink.

“Most health workers have not been paid in nearly three years, medical equipment is in short supply and attacks on or near critical infrastructure, such as water points and health facilities, continue to be a daily reality," said the UNICEF spokesman.

“Only half of all health facilities are functional and even these face severe shortages in medicine, equipment and staff. Widespread acute malnutrition among children is making them more vulnerable to diarrhoea and other water-borne diseases.”

With 12.3 million Yemeni children in need of health and nutrition, education, access to clean water and sanitation services and protection and more than 1.8 million acutely malnourished, further efforts will prove vital.

“Around 2 million children are dependent on food aid and those under the age of 5 continue to represent more than a quarter of all suspected acute watery diarrhoea cases,” the spokesman noted. 

“Nearly 10.2 million children require basic health-care assistance, 9.2 million children don’t have access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene and approximately 60% of pregnant mothers deliver at home, rather than health facilities, that puts them and their babies at higher risk of complications and preventable death. The obvious solution is an immediate halt to hostilities so that a lasting peace can prevail.”

For millions of children in Yemen, UNICEF’s response is the difference between life and death.

“To alleviate the suffering of children, first of all, the war must end to allow for recovery and a return to normal life,” he concluded. “In the meantime, the international community should continue to provide the resources needed to respond to the urgent needs of children across all sectors.”