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Polio drive may not be reaching some IDPs - WHO official

Polio immunisation campaign underway. Fakhrinisso Kurbonshoeva/IRIN
A senior World Health Organization (WHO) official has expressed concern that a new polio immunization drive in Kyrgyzstan may not be reaching some internally displaced persons (IDPs).

“For the time being [third day of the campaign], coverage is unknown in temporary IDP settlements where still some IDPs remain and no health posts exist. The number of people living there is known but security concerns prevent inhabitants visiting health points and [prevent] health workers entering these places,” Ute Enderlein, the health cluster coordinator in Kyrgyzstan, told IRIN.

However, in general, the campaign was running smoothly, he said, adding: “The polio campaign is viewed as the first collective health intervention after the humanitarian crisis in the south, contributing to unite local communities, health officials and partner agencies around a common goal, and to help rebuild mutual trust.”

The 19-23 July nationwide immunization campaign against wild poliomyelitis has so far reached 56 percent of its intended 670,000 children under five, said the Kyrgyz Ministry of Health. A second round runs from 23-27 August.

Southern Kyrgyzstan is still recovering from violent attacks in June largely directed at ethnic Uzbeks that left 335 people dead, according to the Health Ministry.

Since before the clashes, health officials have been concerned that a polio outbreak in neighbouring Tajikistan would spread to Kyrgyzstan.

“So far, no imported cases were suspected or registered in Kyrgyzstan,” Enderlein said.

International support

The Health Ministry’s campaign is being supported by WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Kyrgyz National Red Crescent Society and other partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

UNICEF has provided the vaccines for the campaign, secured the cold chain and organized an awareness initiative with the Health Ministry. WHO has trained 500 health care staff in vaccine administration.

UNICEF and local NGO partners have informed communities in the south, including remote rural areas, of the campaign and said they have not met any resistance.

Vaccines have been distributed to all health facilities and a Health Ministry decree stipulated that during the first three days of the campaign vaccines could only be administered from these facilities. However, on the fourth and fifth days (22-23 July), mobile teams will go out to remote places.

After the first two days of the campaign, 47 percent of intended children in Bishkek had been immunized, 57 percent in Jalal-Abad Province, 69 percent in Batken Province and 62 percent in Osh Province, the Ministry said.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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