In Yemen, the complex crisis is getting more complicated every day. Violence inside the country is fuelled by ongoing airstrikes and a siege imposed by the Saudi-led Coalition. This siege became more stringent in November and is threatening to create one of the largest famines worldwide in decades, according to the UN, while the cholera epidemic in Yemen, also the largest in the world, is yet to be controlled.
Against this background important interventions like preventive health care with a main focus on vaccination are gaining importance, although they are mostly overtaken by other emerging priorities. Recently, outbreaks of childhood diseases reappeared in Yemen after several years of zero incidences, such as diphtheria.
Strengthening the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MoPHP) in its role as health promoter is at the core of the assistance that the EU-funded ”Support to Effective Stewardship of the Yemeni Health Sector (SSHS)” currently continues to provide.
The EPOS TA team, still fully engaged in and for Yemen, took huge efforts to bring about a high-level seminar on vaccination. This seminar meant to address important challenges, such as to counter anti-vaccination rumors that appeared in the last couple of years and negatively affected the acceptance of vaccination by the community in many areas of Yemen. The decrease in coverage was alarming to MoPHP and its international health partners. It is further aggravated by a decreasing number of health facilities that provide routine vaccination, as many of them are closing or have become inoperable because of the difficult economic situation as a result of the ongoing war.
The seminar was conducted under the sponsorship of the prime minister. Participants were ministers of related sectors, parliament members, religious authorities, women and society organizations of current and previous leadership positions in health, famous pediatricians and specialists, university scholars, syndicates, and representatives of local and international NGOs and UN agencies in Yemen. Presentations and discussions were productive and marked by openness. UNICEF and WHO were well represented: being the most relevant funders and technical agencies dealing with vaccination in Yemen.
The seminar was officially opened by the Minister of the MoPHP and the two seminar sessions were chaired by the deputy minister for Services and the Health Care sector. More than 100 participants contributed to the discussions and displayed recommendations on promoting vaccination. Recommendations circulated around measures to address the anti-vaccination rumors, to implement a viable vaccination strategy that balances the demand of outreach vaccination campaigns with the need to support and expand facility-based routine vaccination, and to address restrictions for accessibility to vaccinations at national level and in the governorates. The deputy minister concluded the seminar by confirming that these recommendations would be seriously analyzed and considered in future moves of MoPHP and the Government. We wish that endeavor much success and thank our EPOS team for this excellent initiative! Much courage for 2018!