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QRCS supervises polio vaccination for 815,000 children in Syria
Personnel of Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) in Syria have recently completed the monitoring of the polio vaccination campaign in the northern part of the country, amid strict preventive measures against COVID-19. Done in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the campaign covered a total of 815,000 children under five years of age. It was an attempt to give oral polio vaccines to those children who had not been covered by the previous campaigns, towards the ultimate goal of zero polio transmission in the underserved governorates of northern Syria. QRCS acted as a neutral observer to make sure that the vaccination process meets international standards. A well-trained team of QRCS personnel were deployed across the target areas to ensure adequacy of vaccination hubs, validity of injections, good performance of vaccinators, and safe outreach to children. Other tasks of the monitoring team included correcting any procedures not complying with the plan, applying the Coronavirus control measures, reporting on the progress and final results, and proposing recommendations. Among the areas covered by the campaign were the districts and countryside of Idlib, the countryside of Aleppo, Tell Abiad, and Ras Al-Ayn, where the health sector is disrupted and public health services are totally lacked due to the war and COVID-19. The monitoring process comprised three phases: 1. Pre-campaign: the supervisors visited the chief centers to make sure that the centers and equipment are well in place; 2. During campaign: QRCS supervisors examined vaccine samples, checked storage conditions for inconveniences, and accompanied vaccinator teams to assess their performance at health centers and households and take notes; and 3. Post-campaign: The results were analyzed for lessons learnt, which will be considered in future campaigns. QRCS has considerable experience in monitoring child vaccination campaigns against infectious diseases. Its representation mission in Gaziantep, Turkey, holds intensive in-house and on-the-field training courses to improve the monitoring, planning, follow-up, and reporting skills among the observers, so that they are qualified to accompany the vaccinators wherever they go. Over the past few years, QRCS monitored many child vaccination campaigns in Syria against polio, measles, and rubella. It worked together with many UN agencies, international humanitarian organizations, and local charities to protect millions of children in Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, and other Syrian governorates.