War and Violence
Some places around the world are at war and this makes it difficult for people in these places to get access to health services such as vaccination.
For example, in 2010, Syria’s immunization rates (the percentage of people vaccinated) were at 80%.
In 2011, Syria’s civil war began.
By 2014, just 3 years later, the immunization rates fell to 43%. That means more than half the people weren't protected. Imagine half of your class not being protected against terrible diseases that could seriously harm or even kill you or your friends. .
War has devastating effects across all aspects of a society. Its effect on immunization rates is one of them. Two-thirds of all unvaccinated children in the world live in countries affected by conflict. This is because all of the reasons for inequalities in immunization apply to conflict zones.
During a war:
- Vaccines aren’t available, and health services are damaged or far away. Doctors and nurses aren’t able to get to people. Doctors and nurses could be killed just by travelling in a warzone.
- You can lose all your possessions. People have to leave their homes and cities. There are no jobs and no way to make money, forcing people into poverty. Children aren’t able to get an education, so they can get stuck in a poverty trap.
- Families aren’t able to access information because telephones, TV, and other methods of communication are damaged. This makes it difficult to do things like schedule a vaccine appointment for your child. People are less likely to find out why immunization is important.
Sometimes, warring groups might believe that immunizers are spies, or that vaccines are dangerous, or that the children are part of the enemy and shouldn’t get vaccinated. This makes immunizers a target. Many immunizers – doctors, nurses, and volunteers – have been killed while trying to reach children in warzones.
Yet there are always volunteers who are willing to risk their lives to give vaccines to children. To see their story, watch the video from the National Geographic below about the Syrian war and the lengths that some health care workers go to protect innocent children.
What are some of the reasons immunization is so difficult during the war in Syria?
Why do these volunteers continue to immunize children, even when they know that they could lose their lives?
WARNING: The following video is about the war in Syria and contains images that some children may find difficult to watch. If anyone feels upset, you can close your eyes or cover your ears, and talk to your teacher about how you feel. The purpose is to show how difficult it can be to protect children with vaccines in a country that is experiencing war.
Saving Kids From Polio in Warzones in Syria: