National Immunization Days to Eradicate Polio Virus [Archives:2001/44/Health]
Prepared for publishing by Ismail Ali Al-Ghabri
Immunization is one of the most cost-effective health interventions which forms an essential component of PHC. The principal target group are newly-born children who are protected by vaccination against diseases: diphtheria, whopping cough, tetanus, poliomyelitis, tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B.
In 1996, National Immunization Days to eradicate polio started in order to improve immunization coverage. The MOPH managed to reach 72 percent coverage nationwide by the end of 1999. This was achieved by support given by WHO, UNICEF and other donors and partners. Policy-makers may have to resume national programs while at the same time strengthening the immunization capacity of the PHC system. Both approaches would need the support of an active health education program. Strengthening the immunization function of existing PHC facilities requires trained health workers, especially females, vaccines and refrigeration facilities as well as effective surveillance of pregnancies and births.
Immunization of infants is an important aspect of the breeder issue of mother and child health care (reproductive Health). Indeed, mothers and infants are the most vulnerable population group which is facing severe health risks during delivery and in the pre- and post-natal periods. In Yemen, these risks translate into high mortality rates. As for mothers, the mortality rate is estimated to be 9 to 14 per thousand live births, and as for infants about 80 per thousand live births.
Many workshops on immunization were organized in a drive to prepare and implement a child immunization program. The mechanism used to carry out the program focused on a decentralized and vertical approach at the governorate level. Planing and implementation were left to regional health directors, while MOPH was responsible for supplies, social mobilization, monitoring and evaluation. A number of international agencies, notably UNICEF, WHO and bilateral donors, assisted the program by supplying hardware and software such as vehicles, vaccines, cold chain equipment and technical assistance. For the success of any program with such dimensions, local support and community participation became the most vital issues. This support was organized by the governor of each governorate who mobilized political and community participation through meetings with tribal chiefs and local leaders. Efforts were focused on designated target groups in relation with their specific needs, traditional attitudes and aspirations. Information on the program and its potential benefits were disseminated to the people in a language they could understand, by using a variety of mass media and community channels besides inter-personal communication.
A national plan of action, which included regional targets, social mobilization systems, cold chains, logistics and deployment, was prepared. Immunization schedules were drawn up for the first, second and third round and their implementation proceeded largely as planned. As a result, national immunization levels in the North rose dramatically to about 60 to 80 percent by 1990, more or less matching the standard that had already been achieved in the rest of the country.
Finally, since 1996, the Republic of Yemen has achieved considerable success in implementing its health plan for virus eradication. Now, Yemen has a distinguished place among the countries of East Mediterranean for being free form this disease. This proves the determination and sincerity of the Republic of Yemen to implement the international agreement on children’s rights. The Ministry of Health made available this vaccine free of charge to every child and built a national center to monitor epidemic ailments. Therefore, Yemen has earned respect and appreciation of international health organizations and donating countries and is about to get an international health certificate for the eradication of Infantile Paralyses disease.