Ministry of Public Health, with UN agencies and donor support, strengthens efforts to protect children in Lebanon from polio

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144,000 additional doses of Inactivated Polio Vaccine procured through funding from the European Union and the Government of the United States.

Beirut, August 10, 2017 – The Ministry of Public Health announced today the acceleration of Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) provision to all children under 5 in Lebanon. IPV will be available free of charge for all children, regardless of nationality at, Primary Health Care centres across Lebanon in addition to border points and UNHCR reception centres.

Speaking at the Hariri Medical Centre for primary health care in Taanayel, HE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health, Mr. Ghassan Hasbani, said “Lebanon has been safe from polio for more than 20 years and we will continue all our efforts to ensure that all children in Lebanon continue to be protected from this disease. This can only be achieved through the strengthening of routine immunization efforts and we encourage all parents to take advantage of the excellent immunization services provided to them in more than 207 centres across Lebanon. Together we can keep Lebanon and its children safe and healthy.”

The announcement comes in response to the second polio outbreak in Syria since the start of the crisis 7 years ago.

“Today, the UN reconfirms its support to the plan of the Government of Lebanon to reach every single child below the age of five – with free immunization, no matter its nationality. I’d like to take the opportunity and congratulate the Minister of Public Health for his unfailing efforts in mobilizing every sector of the society to make it happen” said Mr. Philippe Lazzarini, the UN’s Resident Coordinator in Lebanon.

With the support of UNICEF, WHO and UNHCR and funding from the European Union and the Government of the United States, 144,000 doses of Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) are being delivered to Lebanon in coming days, to intensify routine immunization efforts and reach every single child in Lebanon, especially the most at risk.

“Our common and shared objective is to keep Lebanon polio-free by helping to provide vaccines to all the vulnerable populations living in areas surrounding the immediate outbreak zone and with demonstrated links to it. The EU is on the front line in the fight against the spread of the Poliovirus and is standing with Lebanon to help vaccinate all those who are at risk. For this reason, the EU has financed the provision of 103,093 doses of IPV out of the 144,000 doses estimated necessary to mitigate the risk of the spread of the virus into Lebanon” said Mr. Jose Luis Vinuesa, Head of the Economy and Local Development Section at the EU Delegation in Lebanon.

On the occasion of the announcement the Embassy of the United States issued a statement saying “The United States is pleased to support this initiative and we commend the Ministry of Public Health, UNICEF, WHO, and UNHCR for their dedication and hard work to ensure that Lebanon remains polio free.”

“We know that there are children in Lebanon that have missed out on immunization. With the Ministry of Health’s leadership, we must change that. Lebanon has been polio-free and it is our intention to keep it that way. At this point in time, it’s important to stress that there is no immediate risk. These are simple precautionary measures. However, as long as polio exists, we can’t leave one child out of vaccination. This is a moral engagement and we shall not fail in reaching out to every child in Lebanon” said Tanya Chapuisat, Representative of UNICEF Lebanon.

Speaking on behalf of Dr. Gabriele Riedner, acting representative of the World Health Organization in Lebanon, Ms. Alissar Rady said, “Lebanon has remained polio-free despite outbreaks in Syria and Iraq in 2013/2014, due to the intensive and rapid response of the Ministry of Public Health supported by all health partners. However, we are well aware of the continued risks and the need to remain very vigilant for prevention and containment of current and future potential outbreaks.”

“UNHCR has been vigilant and fully committed since the start of the Syrian crisis in supporting the government and the public health system to prevent and tackle infectious and communicable diseases, including providing immunizations in primary health care centres.  Vaccines for Measles and Polio are also provided in all UNHCR reception centres in Lebanon for children under eighteen years old”, said Emmanuel Gignac, UNHCR Deputy Representative in Lebanon.

The current polio outbreak in Syria where 27 cases have been confirmed, has triggered a global response to strengthen polio surveillance and immunization. Lebanon is not the only country in the region to have taken additional measures; Jordan and Turkey have also been allocated IPV vaccines.

The current outbreak in Syria, triggering a global response, is the 2nd since the onset of violence in 2011. The 2013 outbreak was caused by wild polio while the current outbreak is caused by a vaccine derived strain.

For Further information please contact:

Ministry of Public Health       Ms. Randa Hamadeh, randa_ham@hotmail.com, +961 1 611 173

UNICEF                                  Mr. Salam Al-Janabi, sabdulmunem@unicef.org, +961 70 996605

WHO                                       Ms. Alissar Rady, radya@who.int, + 961 1 612007

UNHCR                                               Ms. Lisa Abou Khaled, ABOUKHAL@unhcr.org, +961 71 880 070

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