At the 68th World Health Assembly in Geneva this week, IntraHealth International delivered a statement on behalf of IntraHealth as well 34 other organizations who are affiliated with the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition. The statement was made in response to agenda item 16.4: Global Vaccine Action Plan.
The statement’s text appears below and on the WHO’s website.
Honorable chair and delegates:
IntraHealth International, a US-based NGO partnering with the World Health Organization and the global health community to empower health workers, is pleased to submit this statement on its own behalf as well as on behalf of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition on the need to ensure the safety of frontline health workers providing vaccinations. The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition is a group of 34 organizations working to protect health workers from violence during war and civil unrest.
Persistent attacks on vaccinators create an enormous strain on efforts to halt polio transmission rates. In Pakistan militants continue to target health workers. At least 66 polio vaccination workers have been killed, and many more injured. More than 260 new polio cases were reported in 2014, a four-fold increase since 2013 and similar to levels not seen since 1999. In Nigeria over 25 health workers, primarily polio vaccinators, have been killed by Boko Haram since the beginning of 2014. Insurgents’ continued interference with polio vaccination campaigns may endanger recent progress made in eradicating the disease in Nigeria.
Health workers must be protected to deliver vaccines—and all health services, especially during war and major disease outbreaks. We endorse the expansion of WHO guidance on immunization during humanitarian emergencies.
We also urge WHO and its partners to reinforce their commitment to provide global leadership in ensuring health workers are protected from violence by documenting incidents and strengthening accountability mechanisms. Until the safety of vaccinators is assured, the provision of essential care and containment of public health threats like polio will be threatened, and the global eradication of polio will not be achieved.