Wednesday, 04 March 2015 09:06


Baghdad, 3 March 2015– a national polio vaccination campaign commenced in Iraq on 22 February 2015 aiming to reach 5.9 million children under five years old regardless of their previous vaccination status. In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), children aged 9 months to 5 years shall be given measles vaccine along with oral polio vaccine. 


On March 2014, the Iraqi Ministry of Health declared a polio outbreak when a child in Al-Rusafa area in the capital Baghdad was diagnosed with poliomyelitis. This was the first case of polio detected in Iraq after the country succeeded in stopping the virus transmission in the year 2000. In recognition of the risk of further spread, federal and regional governments, along with UN agencies, started emergency campaigns to reach 5.9 million children below five years of age. 

The current nationwide immunization campaign, supported by WHO and UNICEF in coordination with the Federal Ministry of Health and Ministry of Health of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), will send 24996 vaccinators house to house across all of Iraq to reach every child.  

“I would like to acknowledge the leadership and commitment of the Federal Government and Kurdistan Regional Government to conduct this national massive campaign of immunization following a remarkable and successful response to the outbreak of polio cases in Iraq last year,” said Dr Jaffar Hussain WHO Representative and Head of Mission in Iraq. “The country faces significant risks and thus categorised by international polio experts as one of the polio highest risk countries in the Middle East.  Measles, on the other hand, is endemic in Iraq and can kill children,” added Dr. Hussain.

Mr. Philippe Heffinck, acting UNICEF Iraq Representative, remarked, "The world is on the verge of eradicating one of the most feared diseases of the past century. The polio outbreak in the Middle East saw children paralyzed in Syria and Iraq, and threatened this goal. However, even in the midst of overlaid humanitarian crisis, swift action and solid support from the Iraqi and KRG ministries of health, and with the collective support of partners such as WHO, Iraq has been polio free ten months." 

Emphasis has been put on reaching vulnerable populations across all areas of Iraq, including IDPs, refugees, people living in dense urban areas and minorities. Insecurity has hampered vaccination teams in accessing children in a few areas around Kirkuk and Salah Aldin governorates. To ensure that Iraq remains polio free, after the last confirmed case of wild poliovirus was verified on 7 April 2014, all children must be reached with oral polio vaccine.

Polio is a devastating disease that causes permanent disability and usually hits the most vulnerable children who are poor, marginalized or otherwise underserved. The disease is endemic in only three countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria; but as long as polio exists anywhere, outbreaks will continue to happen. Iraq’s emergency outbreak response, as part of the larger Middle Eastern Outbreak Response, has helped to stop polio in the region and work towards a polio free world. 

For further information, please contact:

Ms. Ajyal Sultany, Communications Officer, WHO Iraq Office, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , +964 7510 101 469

Ms. Pauline Ajello, Communications and Donors’ Relegations Officer, WHO Iraq Office, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , +964 7809 288 618

Mr Jeffrey Bates, Chief of Communications and Strategic Partnerships UNICEF Iraq, +964 7801 964 524, Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Additional Info

  • Agency: UNICEF
Last modified on Wednesday, 04 March 2015 09:10

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