The UN has decided on the phased implementation of a polio vaccination campaign through the more stable and secure areas of Somalia, reaching about 50 percent of an estimated 1.6 million children under five years. Insecure areas would be left until later, an official with the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) told IRIN this week. While there had been “strong pressure” to implement National Immunisation Days (NIDS) across the country in the global drive towards polio eradication by the year 2000, security and logistical issues at field level made it impractical and potentially dangerous in Somalia, he said.
The first vaccination round, to be undertaken from 24-26 October, would include Somaliland in the northwest, Puntland in the northeast, Bay and Bakol, Hiraan and Middle Shabelle. The possible inclusion of Lower Shabelle and parts of Gedo is being considered, but beyond consideration for the first round were Lower and Middle Juba, and Benadir (including Mogadishu). While it was not ideal to reach just 50 percent of the target population in the first round, it was better to do what could be done well - and verifiably - within the context of existing protocols, than to risk disrupting the fragile balance of agency, community and clan relationships, the EPI official told IRIN. A second round of immunisation is scheduled for 28-30 November and a third for early in the new year.