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Fearing regime airstrikes, Idlib vaccination campaign switches to house calls

 A mobile medical worker, with a shoulder-slung cooler filled with […]

27 October 2015

 A mobile medical worker, with a shoulder-slung cooler filled with polio vaccines, inoculates an Idlib child.

Doctors and medical staff in the Idlib countryside are moving from house-to-house inoculating children against polio in a mobile vaccination campaign dodging regime warplanes, local journalists and vaccine campaign staff told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

“Large gatherings aren’t allowed in Idlib, as they’re easy airstrike targets,” Mahmoud a-Shamali, an Idlib-based citizen journalist told Syria Direct Tuesday.

“Because people can’t line up outside vaccination centers, medical teams are now coming to them, going door-to-door to get kids vaccinated,” he added.

A polio vaccine, available in middle-income countries for less than $3 through UNICEF, is still a luxury for many of the families campaign workers see on house calls, explains a local journalist.

“When the campaign’s medical teams visit your average home, they see families in need of just about everything–cooking and heating fuel, even firewood,” Obaida al-Amar, a journalist with a previous Idlib polio inoculation campaign, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

“Vaccinations are so incredibly important, yet some families would rather give their child a sweater, or a pair of pants, or a pencil with an eraser,” he added.

Yet sending medical professionals out is still dangerous, says one doctor heading a vaccination campaign in the west Idlib town of Ariha.

“It’s risky delivering a vaccine drive like this, but the goal through this mobile campaign is to completely eliminate the virus causing polio–we try to get to even the smallest pockets of residents, even if they’re on an active front,” Dr. Anas Qarrat, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

Over the course of the war, the Syrian regime and its allies have targeted medical centers and professionals operating in rebel-held areas.

“The war’s been tough on medical teams; a lot of us have been wounded or killed,” Dr. Rafat, a doctor in the Idlib countryside who is also participating in the campaign, told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

Launched on October 24, the campaign, called Hand-in-Hand We’ll Get Vaccinated, is the twelfth of its kind in Idlib. It targets children aged from one day to five years old, said a campaign spokesman in Hand-in-Hand’s launch video Saturday.

 An infant and a child get their anti-polio shots.

“Polio cases started showing up in Syria around 2014–we’ve seen cases crop up in rebel-held Aleppo, or Islamic State-controlled Deir e-Zor,” said Dr. Qarrat.

“That’s why we’re so insistent on mounting preventative campaigns like this one,” the doctor said.

 Moving house to house, family to family, medical staff deliver vaccines.


Photos courtesy of Hand in Hand We’ll Get Vaccinated Campaign.

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