One million vaccine doses administered to children living in humanitarian settings in the Horn of Africa

ByGavi, the Vaccine Alliance

One million vaccine doses administered to children living in humanitarian settings in the Horn of Africa

One million doses of life-saving vaccines have been administered to children living across Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, thanks to the Zero-Dose Immunization Programme (ZIP).

Funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and led by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in the Horn of Africa, ZIP is responding to the humanitarian challenge of identifying and vaccinating zero-dose children living in fragile settings that are beyond the reach of government health services. More than half of the 2.71 million children in the region aged under five years have never received a vaccine in their lives.

“Children living in hard-to-reach communities now have a fighting chance for a better future,” said Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director of Country Programmes Delivery at Gavi.“ But our work is not done: millions of children who are already vulnerable due to conflict, natural disasters and other challenges continue to be under-served by traditional health systems, and systemically miss out on essential vaccines. Innovative partnerships such as this one with the IRC are essential if we are to ensure no child is left behind.”

In partnership with Flowminder, ThinkPlace and a broad coalition of local civil society organisations, the IRC is building on its humanitarian expertise to successfully deliver results through ZIP. In Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, humanitarian negotiators are working closely with vaccination teams to access communities living in conflict-ridden areas and vaccinate children who are the hardest to reach. According to the latest data, at the beginning of the programme, only 16% of the total targeted areas in the region were accessible. Through successful negotiation, 77% can be accessed to deliver immunisation. Partners are also integrating health programmes to provide services, including nutrition, and vaccines in one place.

“Through innovative strategies and strategic partnerships, the IRC-led Gavi REACH consortium is bridging the equity gap in immunisation, extending Ministry of Health immunisation programmes to populations in fragile, conflict and humanitarian settings that are beyond the reach of traditional health systems or government support. By directly funding and supplying the full range of actors through this programme, Gavi has enabled the IRC and its partners to implement hyper-responsive and context-specific programming,” said Shiferaw Demissie, Project Director for Gavi REACH at the IRC. “The IRC is committed not only to expanding immunisation coverage to some of the most vulnerable populations but also to utilising Gavi REACH as a gateway to extend additional critical services, such as primary health care, nutrition and other services, to these communities.”

The Horn of Africa is grappling with multiple crises. In addition to the millions of lives lost due to conflict, millions more have been displaced and are facing extreme shortages of food and water. Climate change, extreme droughts and flooding are also exacerbating instability, making it increasingly difficult to access communities in need of basic health services, and to prevent and control the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases.

In 2021, more than 4.5 million zero-dose children were living across the 11 target ZIP countries. Recognising that new methods were necessary to address low immunisation coverage and equity gaps, Gavi launched ZIP, dedicating up to US$ 100 million and leveraging new partnerships to identify and reach zero-dose children living in fragile and conflict settings across Africa. The IRC and World Vision were selected to lead the initiative in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel regions respectively, due to their extensive experience in conflict areas and strong footprint in remote areas.