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Press Centre (6/2014)

Turkey expands the scope of polio vaccination campaign

3-year-old Fatma from Allepo receives a dose of oral polio. @UNICEF/Turkey 2014/Yurtsever
VAN, Turkey - June 2014 - A father of seven daughters, Ibrahim Aziz Hasan, escaped Aleppo seven months ago to the Turkish city of Van, where he is getting his children the healthcare they need. He has brought his three-year old Fatma to be inoculated against polio, as the country’s Ministry of Health continues its efforts to ensure the outbreak does not spread across its borders. Ibrahim and his family live in a rented modest single storey house, outside of the camps, making them among the hardest to inform about polio. But a door-to-door awareness campaign is making great progress. After being vaccinated without crying, Fatma makes sure her baby doll also receives some “vaccine” from her toy bottle, before playing with the balloon she has been given to share with her sisters.

The Ministry aims to reach a total of 136 thousand children in Van’s city centre and surrounding districts. The previous round of vaccinations reached 90% of children, and organisers are keen to improve this percentage.

Nuri İsa, is also a father from Aleppo. “I’ve heard about polio cases in Syria from televisions and from people around me,” he said. “When we were there, my children were not vaccinated at all. They were first vaccinated here, and as a father, I’m glad.” Nuri left his home and moved to Van in the east of Turkey with his family almost a year ago.

Expressing his sincere thanks to the Ministry of Health personnel who vaccinated İsa, his three-year-old son, Nuri proudly kisses him on the cheek — no tears were shed today.

After vaccinating his children against polio, Ministry of Health personnel invited İbrahim to the Family Health Centre for other vaccinations, which are recorded on the children’s certificates.

And it’s not just Syrian families that are benefitting from the vaccination campaign. Van local, Şermin Tunç was there to have her sons Emir and Botan protected. “I hadn’t heard about vaccination campaigns before,” she said. “I discovered it when the health care personnel came to my door. My children had already had certificates of vaccination, but with their help, this vaccination is also done.”

Following the polio vaccination drives in the districts along the Syrian border, other vaccination campaigns were also held in Van, Diyarbakır, Siirt, Hakkari, Batman and Mersin in two rounds.
UNICEF Turkey supports these campaigns conducted by the Ministry of Health of Turkish Republic by supplying vaccines and running the communication activities of all these campaigns.

Story and photos by Ayberk Yurtsever
UNICEF Turkey Country Office, Yukarı Dikmen Mah. Alexsander Dubçek Cd. 7/106, 06450 Çankaya/Ankara. Telephone: +90 312 454 1000 Fax: +90 312 496 1461 E-mail: ankara@unicef.org