RAS JDIR, Tunisia, 21 March 2011 – A UNICEF-supported campaign led by the Tunisian Ministry of Health has been vaccinating children under the age of five living in the largest temporary camp on the Tunisia-Libya border. Field report by Roshan Khadivi.
UNICEF reports on an emergency vaccination campaign that was initiated for children living in the Shousha transit camp on the Tunisian-Libyan border.
The three-day campaign – focusing on immunising children against polio, measles, diphtheria, tetanus and other diseases – targeted those who have fled the on-going conflict in neighbouring Libya.
As part of the effort, UNICEF psychologists worked in close collaboration with health workers at the Shousha camp, conducting pre-screening and assessments of families with children.
“We are here to reach every child in need of vaccination and we are giving the families a vaccination booklet so they can keep track,” said Filali Najet, a Tunisian nurse from the Ben Guerdane Regional Hospital in southern Tunisia. She said it was difficult at times to accurately assess the vaccinations children had already received prior to fleeing Libya.
A total of 54 children were vaccinated at the Shousha camp. In addition, eight pregnant women were identified and received tetanus vaccinations.
Smaller camps have also been set up by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, United Arab Emirates Red Crescent, and other non-governmental organizations near the border area. The vaccination team from the Tunisian Ministry of Health will be visiting those camps this week to assess and continue the UNICEF-supported vaccination campaign.
At this stage, the number of fleeing migrants staying in camps on the Tunisia-Libya border numbers less than 5000. This includes mostly male migrant workers and about 400 families.
UNICEF and partners continue to support those living in the camps by providing latrines and good hygiene awareness, as well as child protection activities – including a child-friendly space in partnership with Save the Children – and a team of Tunisian psychologists who work with affected families.
A child protection working group, in coordination with Save the Children, the Red Cross and other partners, is now addressing the situation of unaccompanied minors as well as registering new-borns in the camps.
“Our country just had a revolution,” said Elys Chaouachi, a Tunisian trainer who works with UNICEF and Save the Children on preparing psycho-social support teams for possible deployment to Libya. “We, in Tunisia, are watching the situation in Libya closely and we feel solidarity with the people there and also those who have fled to our country, so we are here to help.”
Supplies on the ground
Last week, some 47 tons of UNICEF supplies arrived in the city of Ben Guerdane on the Tunisia-Libya border, to cover needs in the areas of health, child protection, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene.
The supplies include food items such as high-nutrient, ready-to-eat Plumpy’nut, a peanut-based paste effective in treating moderate malnutrition. Non-food items include a total of 10,000 blankets, 5,000 hygiene kits, 100 early childhood development kits, as well as vaccines, first aid kits, water containers, and recreational items.
More will likely be needed to cope with an additional influx of people crossing the border as the crisis in Libya continues.