International donors are playing an essential role in saving children’s lives in Yemen, but additional funding is urgently needed to help prevent outbreaks and enhance the vaccination programme in the whole country
International donors are playing an essential role in saving children’s lives in Yemen, but additional funding is urgently needed to help prevent outbreaks and enhance the vaccination programme in the whole country.
In the last month, donors have generously committed more than a million doses of oral polio vaccine (OPV) which have reached Yemen since 1 September, and have provided 13 million doses of OPV for the last two months of the OHP programme. They have also added 3.4 million doses of OPV for children under five, a figure made possible by Dr Peter Piot’s pledge of 25 million vaccine doses. It is an astonishing commitment of $100m (£67m).
These figures do not include 7.6 million additional doses of OPV that have been requested for the current round of the partnership, together with vaccines for Palestinian refugees in Yemen and for funding from other international donors such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Norway.
The challenge now is to accelerate the delivery of these additional doses.
“It is a huge relief to have the OPV now in Yemen, as it means that thousands of children will not have to be immunised,” says Dr Ilona Ulmann, child life coordinator at the OHP in Yemen. “At the same time, we urgently need to do more to find the vaccine, so that this vital healthcare intervention can be stepped up again in case we hit another outbreak. International donors are doing their best to respond. Their generosity is very encouraging.”
Until now, all the OPV doses in Yemen were pre-contracted with the OHP programme for use in emergency situations or public health emergencies. The ongoing financing through COVAX (conditional funds for procurement) allows the OHP programme to buy additional doses for Yemen from around the world to bring it in line with international donor requirements.
This work is managed by the Board of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which works closely with the World Health Organisation and with partners on the ground. The Department for International Development (DFID) have also provided a matching grant of 10 million to purchase additional vaccine for Syria and Iraqi children.
Yemen has received far fewer doses of vaccine than other countries in the Middle East due to shortages caused by security and access issues caused by armed conflict. This is a situation that will have to be addressed to enable vaccinations to continue.
Yemen imports much of its essential supplies, including the polio vaccine. Therefore, it is critical that the security situation stabilises so that Yemen can easily receive additional supplies of OPV, including potentially from Saudi Arabia and the UK, which have both offered to pay for the vaccines themselves, so that they can be immediately used.
Further information about the OPTV programme can be found at www.gis-oj-qaf.org. Severely under-vaccinated children are at very high risk of contracting polio. It is therefore vital that vaccination efforts continue in Yemen.