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More than 306K Yemenis reached with cholera vaccines – WHO, UNICEF

More than 306K Yemenis reached with cholera vaccines
More than 306,000 people in Yemen, including over 164,000 children under the age of 15, were vaccinated against cholera as part of a joint WHO-UNICEF campaign that concluded on Friday. 

The number is expected to go up as reports of the final day of the campaign come in, the two UN agencies said in a joint statement.

The six-day vaccination effort carried out by 3,000 health workers in three districts in Hudaydah and Ibb, was made possible by a pause in fighting – known as ‘Days of Tranquility’ – agreed by parties to the conflict.

"The success of this vaccination campaign shows what we can collectively achieve for children and families in Yemen when the fighting stops and humanitarian access opens up," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. 

"Yet the reality is that this is a quick fix. Only a comprehensive political resolution to the conflict can secure the wellbeing of children across the country over the long term," she said.

"It is unacceptable for people to die from preventable diseases," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "We are grateful for the pause in fighting which enabled us to complete the cholera vaccination campaign. Vaccination is one of many health services people need. Ultimately, peace is the only road to health," he added.

Since April 2017, there have been over 1.2 million suspected cholera cases and 2,515 associated deaths in the country – one of the worst outbreaks in recent history. The vaccination is critical to preventing further spread of the disease. This campaign aimed to reach 540,000 in the three districts.

Before the end of the year, many more people will need to be vaccinated against cholera, and millions of more children immunized against polio, measles, pneumonia and other preventable diseases.

Immunization is a matter of life or death for millions of people in Yemen, especially children. A child dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes. The country’s health system is hanging by a thread: most health workers have not been paid in two years, medical equipment is in short supply, and attacks on or near critical infrastructure such as water points and health facilities continue to be a daily reality. 

Widespread acute malnutrition among children is making them more vulnerable to diarrhoeal diseases.

UNICEF and WHO renew their call on parties to the conflict to abide by their legal obligations to stop attacks against civilian infrastructure and guarantee safe, unconditional and sustained access to all children in need in Yemen. 

Days of Tranquility are a positive step towards providing humanitarians with the space to reach vulnerable children and families and to help them survive one of the world’s most vicious humanitarian crises.