With 179 cases of polio now confirmed in Yemen, the Yemen Ministry of Health has launched a nationwide immunization campaign to break the back of the epidemic and stop the virus traveling further. UNICEF
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1. Wide shot, vaccination car driving to Hodaida, a different governorate in Yemen
2. Med shot, people waiting with children
3. Wide shot, woman holding child
4. Close up, foot of child
5. Tilt up, baby crying to Health minister giving drops to child in Sana'a.
6. Wide shot, people waiting in line
7. Close up, child receiving polio drops
8. Tilt up, child to mother
9. Close up, crying baby receiving vaccine
10. Close up, polio certificate
11. Wide shot, children standing in the street in Sana'a in the launching of the campaign holding banners about Polio Vaccination.
With 179 cases of polio now confirmed in Yemen, the Yemen Ministry of Health has launched a nationwide immunization campaign to break the back of the epidemic and stop the virus traveling further.

The door-to-door operation will reach an estimated 5 million children under 5 years in more than 320 districts in Yemen, finishing on 2 June. According to the Ministry of Health, around 11 million vaccine doses are required for the present campaign and the second round launching on 11 July. So far, UNICEF has sent six million doses.
The majority of new polio cases are being found in the Hudaidah governorate, on the Red Sea coast.

The virus is believed to have traveled to Yemen from West Africa via Sudan. The virus in Yemen is the same strain currently circulating in Sudan.

As part of its efforts to step-up community involvement, UNICEF is giving priority attention to a nationwide social mobilization initiative to stimulate the media support and active involvement of local councils, schools, mosques, community leaders and artists to use every possible channel for countering the threat of polio outbreak in Yemen. UNICEF and WHO teams are presently undertaking field visits to assist Governorate Supervisors and more than 650 District Supervisors and observers from local councils to monitor the process.

Imams joined in giving the call for vaccinating the children at mosques and mobile vans using amplifiers that roamed the villages to stir the interest of communities in the NIDs. With support from UNICEF, the Yemeni National Television sent out 21 teams to the worst hit districts to document the social mobilization activities and work on the mobile teams.

"Yemen now needs to utilize the NID momentum to revitalize child immunization and the primary health care system as a whole", said Thomas McDermott, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. Activities that need to be implemented immediately include achieving sustainable high routine immunization coverage; continue polio eradication strategies and develop the surveillance system to identify any suspected case of polio.

Experience shows that as long as high-quality immunization campaigns are implemented rapidly, such outbreaks can be stopped relatively quickly. "High levels of routine immunization are the best national defense against re-infection by virus, with particular focus on the poorest communities", McDermott added.

On the conclusion of the 3-day campaign, the Ministry of Health will go on national media to reiterate its call to parents who might have missed the opportunity to give polio drops to their children at fixed health centres which are gearing up for a sustainable routine immunization programme.

Yemen is one of 16 countries to be re-infected by polio spreading out of West Africa. Emergency vaccination campaigns are essential to safeguard the global drive to beat polio. Since 1988, polio cases have fallen by 99 per cent worldwide, thanks to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, spearheaded by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, Rotary International and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Only six countries are now endemic - Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan and Egypt.

With strong international support and high-quality immunization campaigns, UNICEF and the global polio eradication partners are optimistic that polio can be stopped in Yemen soon. Present concern, though, is about preventing the virus from spreading into surrounding countries that are currently polio-free.

A major funding shortfall is threatening global efforts to contain the disease. At present, an estimated $50 million is needed by July for immunization campaigns planned in the latter half of this year, with another $200 million required in 2006.

"If campaigns have to be curtailed for lack of funds, it will give polio a window of opportunity to return just as we reach the threshold of eradication. It would also threaten a $4 billion investment by the global community to see a world where every child, in every country is safe from polio", UNICEF declared today.