Iraq has embarked on a massive immunization drive aimed at protecting millions of children from a potential measles outbreak. According to health experts, nearly 10% of the children could die in the face of an epidemic.
Iraq's Ministry of Health is conducting the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) immunization campaign which will be on for two weeks. This is being funded by the European Commission.
The World Health Organization and UNICEF have got together to supervise the campaign. This will involve the concerted effort of 8,000 volunteers who will administer the vaccine to 3.9 million children.
Iraq has been focused on its plan of eliminating measles from the nation. The former immunization campaigns were successful in reducing the incidence of measles drastically-from 9,181 in 2004 to below 500 in 2006. The greatest impediment to the perpetuation of such campaigns is the country's strife torn environment. This has made it difficult to keep a count of the children who have missed such immunization programmes.
The present campaign is a boon to the many children in Iraq who have not been able to take the jab. Dr Naeema Al-Ghasser, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative for Iraq, said: "All children between 12-59 months everywhere in Iraq need to be immunised, even if they have had the vaccine before. The vaccine is safe and effective, and gives lifelong immunity against measles."
Roger Wright, Unicef special representative for Iraq said," The timing of this MMR campaign is critical. This vaccine will certainly save many young lives and we are calling on everyone in Iraq to ensure vaccinators reach children safely over the next two weeks."