UNICEF and WHO sound the alarm on the health dangers of children in Iraq missing routine immunization
Baghdad, 26 April 2020 – In Iraq, less than half of children between the ages of 12 and 23 months are fully immunized against preventable diseases and only two-thirds are protected against measles. Disruption of immunization services caused by the ongoing covid19 pandemic is likely to further reduce measles coverage by an additional 20 per cent, leaving the most vulnerable children at risk of disease outbreak.
“We need to be fully engaged in protecting Iraqi children from COVID-19 while at the same time ensuring that we continue to protect children from preventable diseases. In these unprecedented times, our message to parents is to make sure children receive their routine immunizations while following national and local guidance on COVID-19 preventive measures including physical distancing, hand washing, and proper coughing and sneezing hygiene as advised by the government and health officials,” said Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF Iraq Representative.
Immunization is the key to ending child deaths from a range of diseases such as measles and polio, thereby giving children a chance to grow up healthy and reach their full potential.
“We cannot afford to go backwards on our achievements. While we are still to have a vaccine for covid19, let us take full advantage of the vaccines that are available by ensuring that children in Iraq are immunized on time” added World Health Organization (WHO) Iraq Representative Dr Adham Ismail.
Vaccinations rates in Iraq have been low in recent years due to decades conflict and under-investment in health services.
UNICEF and WHO are calling on the Government of Iraq to increase investment in health services and to start planning intensified immunization activities, including campaigns, to identify and reach children with missed vaccine doses, once the pandemic is fully under-control.