Feature: Gov't launches vaccination campaign to curb polio resurgence in war-ravaged Yemen-Xinhua

Feature: Gov't launches vaccination campaign to curb polio resurgence in war-ravaged Yemen

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2023-03-05 20:21:45

By Murad Abdo

ADEN, Yemen, March 5 (Xinhua) -- Yemen's internationally-recognized government on Sunday launched a large polio vaccination campaign amid an ongoing struggle to curb the resurgence of the contagious disease in the war-ravaged Arab country.

The campaign, which aims to vaccinate 1,290,046 children under the age of five, seeks to prevent the further spread of polio in the regions that have been grappling with a surge in epidemics and diseases because of the country's fragile healthcare infrastructure and lack of basic medical services.

Despite the challenges, hundreds of health workers and volunteers are working tirelessly to ensure that as many children as possible are vaccinated during the campaign that covers 12 provinces controlled by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government.

In the southern port city of Aden, Yemen's temporary capital, medical teams started a door-to-door immunization campaign, and mobile clinics were set up in various locations to provide vaccines to those who cannot travel.

"The resurgence of polio is very worrying for us but we are trying to confront this disease through dispatching nearly 10,569 of our medical teams to vaccinate the children in the government-controlled provinces," Ishraq Al-Subaei, the undersecretary of the ministry of health for the population sector in Yemen, told Xinhua.

The health official said the launch of the polio vaccination campaign comes in response to the detection of several cases in some areas of the country, primarily in the northern regions controlled by the Houthi militia.

"Most of the polio cases were detected in areas controlled by the Houthis who refused to accept vaccination campaigns and the official authorities recorded 230 polio cases, particularly in the northern provinces such as Saada and Hajjah and other neighboring areas during the past two years," said Al-Subaei.

As Yemen is struggling with a surge in epidemics and diseases, concerns over the spread of polio have intensified in Yemen which had been declared polio-free in 2006.

On behalf of Yemen's health ministry, Ishraq called on the United Nations and its affiliated agencies to exert pressure on the Houthis to allow vaccination and immunization teams to perform their duties in the country's northern provinces.

The appeal highlights the challenges faced by healthcare workers in Yemen, where the ongoing years-long conflict and political instability have disrupted healthcare systems and made it difficult for aid organizations to operate effectively.

The campaign was highly welcomed by parents in Aden and other southern provinces, who were eager to protect their children from the infectious disease. However, there are still challenges in ensuring that all children are vaccinated, particularly in the mountainous areas that are difficult to reach because of blocked roads and insecurity.

Ahmed Mohammed, a father of three from Aden, said the campaign brought much-needed attention to the issue of public health in Yemen and considered it a crucial milestone in combating polio.

"We are very happy that the government is taking action to protect our children from infectious diseases like polio, which can be so devastating," said Mohammed.

The vaccination campaign will continue for three days, with health officials and aid workers closely monitoring the situation to ensure that as many children as possible are reached in the southern regions.

Yemen has been mired in civil war since late 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthi group seized control of several northern provinces and forced the internationally-recognized government out of the capital Sanaa.

The conflict has brought the impoverished Arab country to the brink of famine and triggered repeated outbreaks of deadly epidemics such as cholera and polio.

The United Nations is trying to renew the expired humanitarian truce and resume peace talks between the government and the Houthi rebels to end the more than eight years of civil war.