Somalia’s health ministry and two United Nations agencies on Sunday launched a three-day oral polio vaccination campaign, targeting 726,699 children under five years of age in two districts.
A joint statement issued in Mogadishu said the campaign backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF is taking place in Banadir and Lower and Middle Shabelle regions.
Ghulam Popal, WHO Representative for Somalia said the campaign will be conducted in two rounds through house-to-house visits by vaccination teams, noting that no cases of polio have been detected in Somalia since August 2014.
“However, as a preventative measure; it is imperative that all children under five years of age in targeted locations, whether previously immunized or not, receive two drops of oral polio vaccine,” Popal said.
Banadir region reported the highest number of wild poliovirus cases in Somalia (72 out of 199) during the Horn of Africa outbreak in 2013-2014.
“We urge all families to get their children vaccinated to protect them against this dangerous disease,” he added.
The UN health agencies said the first and second round will involve the use of oral polio vaccine for children under five years of age.
Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) will be used in the third round to boost immunity among children between 2 and 23 months of age.
According to the UN, conflict and insecurity in South and Central Somalia especially has continued to hinder access to children during polio immunization campaigns in 2017, with about 240,000 children under five years of age reported as not accessible for more than a year.
“This campaign has been carefully planned to make sure that all children in the chosen areas, particularly those who have been missed in previous vaccination campaigns, are reached this time,” said UNICEF Somalia Representative Steven Lauwerier.
The UN agencies said over 4,400 vaccinators and monitors, and around 800,000 doses of vaccine have been mobilized to conduct the activity.
The Horn of Africa nation has been polio free since August 2014, when the last case of polio was reported from Hobyo district of Mudug region.
The declaration by WHO two years ago keeps Somalia outside the last group of countries which still record cased of polio in the world.
WHO has however warned Somalia remains at risk of importation of the virus from these countries.