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HomeFeaturedIntegrated Polio and Birth Registration campaign targets under five children in Sierra Leone.

Integrated Polio and Birth Registration campaign targets under five children in Sierra Leone.

Integrated Polio and Birth Registration campaign targets under five children in Sierra Leone.

FREETOWN, 10 July 2015 – Sierra Leone is conducting a nationwide Polio immunization campaign benefitting an estimated 1.4 million children under five years from 10-13 July 2015. An estimated 200,000 children under five born and delivered at home during the Ebola outbreak and children not registered at birth prior to the outbreak will be registered and issued with birth certificates in every district in the country during the campaign. Due to the Ebola emergency there was a marked reduction in the number of children born in health facilities which also resulted in lower birth registration. Children who missed routine immunization services will also be tracked and immunized with the vaccination they missed.

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation is leading the campaign in collaboration with UNICEF, WHO, Plan Sierra Leone and other development partners. In addition the Ministry of Health is working together with partners on early recovery plan to restore basic health services affected by the outbreak.

“Integrating birth registration with health campaigns such as polio is a laudable initiative built on existing health systems to reach as many children as possible with not only life-saving interventions but also civil registration services aimed at guaranteeing the rights of every child,” said Dr Abubakarr Fofanah, Minister of Health and Sanitation.

Although the last case of wild polio virus in the country was reported in 2010, Sierra Leone still stands the risk of polio re-infection as the African region has not yet been certified polio free thereby making every country vulnerable to the disease.

While the exact numbers are yet to be confirmed, many children missed out on routine vaccination services and birth registration due to the Ebola outbreak. Although 78 percent of children under the age of five are registered at birth in Sierra Leone, there is still challenge with age verification for children without a form of identity that are still subjected to many violations such as child labour, early marriage and other forms of violence against children. Birth registration is essential to protect the rights of children to access a broad range of social services.

“Immunization campaigns are important steps in protecting children against preventable disease and assuring their wellbeing”, said Dr Anders Nordström, WHO Representative in Sierra Leone. “While we still strive to get to zero Ebola, restoring services such as birth registration and routine immunization, empowering social structures and institutions to be functional is critical in transitioning from the Ebola response to a concrete recovery process.

During the campaign, 10,700 health personnel will move from house to house administering polio vaccines and registering children who have no birth certificates. Trained surveillance officers will identify quarantined homes in Ebola affected areas and provide the necessary services.

“This is the first time health care services and civil registration services for children are being integrated in mass campaigns like this in Sierra Leone,” said Geoff Wiffin, UNICEF Representative to Sierra Leone. “This shows that programme interventions, when integrated and used properly with the same established structures, could be very effective in enabling children’s rights to health services as well as reaching out to vulnerable children with social protection services.”

In June this year, an integrated measles and polio campaign was conducted reaching 97 per cent of under five children.

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