Diphtheria vaccination campaign in Yemen

20 March 2018

Article: 52/1104

The World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and national health authorities have completed a large-scale vaccination campaign to control the spread of diphtheria in Yemen.

The campaign targeted nearly 2.7 million children aged six weeks to 15 years in 11 governorates.

It focused on locations reporting suspected cases of diphtheria and areas at high risk of spread of the infectious respiratory disease. More than 6000 health workers were mobilised during the campaign, including for community engagement and the administration of the vaccine.

First reported in October 2017, the outbreak has spread rapidly across the country, infecting more than 1300 people and killing over 70. Children and young adults under 25 represent almost 80% of the caseload.

The rapid spread of diphtheria in Yemen highlights major gaps in routine vaccination coverage in recent years and signifies a collapsing health system. Only 50% of all health facilities are partially or fully functioning.

In November and December 2017, WHO and UNICEF vaccinated almost 450,000 children under seven years of age against diphtheria in Ibb, the worst affected governorate accounting for nearly 35% of all cases reported.

Source: WHO News Release, 16 March 2018