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Vaccines protecting children in conflict

19 November 2020, Impact of Our Work

Millions of children are at greater risk of contracting preventable illness

Over the last century, nothing impacted the lives of millions of children like vaccines. Vaccines have reduced polio by 99% since 1988. They have eradicated smallpox. And soon, they could be a critical tool for helping to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

But for many of the world’s children the hope of a vaccine, and its protection from diseases isn’t guaranteed. Two-thirds of the world’s children living in conflict zones aren’t immunized. It’s those children who are in real danger of dying, not from the direct impacts of war, but from disease and malnutrition. A new report by Save the Children shows diseases like measles, polio, cholera, pneumonia, yellow fever and diphtheria, for which safe and effective vaccines exist, are gripping children in conflict as continued fighting undermines efforts to vaccinate them.

COVID-19 has compounded the situation for children living in conflict zones, causing the suspension of immunisation programs in more than 60 countries. 

As a result, 80 million more children under one are at increased risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases. In the four months to August alone, 50 million children missed out on polio vaccinations.

Corona fear hits hard in Bangladesh

Modina* fled Myanmar in 2017 with her two children. Back in Myanmar, the family was routinely discriminated against, fell ill often, and couldn’t afford healthcare.
“In Myanmar, we had no freedom of movement,” she says. “They used to beat people to death if they went somewhere. We could neither buy food nor medicines for us or our children when needed. My children suffered from illnesses.”


After reaching Bangladesh, Modina received pregnancy checkups from the Save the Children clinic and healthcare for her two other children whenever they fell sick. Then she had baby Humaida*. “The day I gave birth to my child Humaida, I was brought here to Save the Children’s hospital. They vaccinated my baby and provided clothes, a blanket and a bag for my baby. Then the sisters (Save the Children staff) took me home with my baby and the gifts. Since then, I come here every month for my daughter to receive her vaccinations.”

Modina and Humaida receive regular care from the health clinic inside the refugee camp. Photo: Sonali Chakma / Save the Children​


In 2020, the fear of coronavirus took hold in the camp. With its crowded quarters, and lack of space to safely socially distance, Modina kept the family home. “We were so afraid of the virus that we did not let our children go out,” she says. “I was so scared of getting infected by the coronavirus that I did not take my Humaida to the hospital for her vaccinations.”
Humaida missed receiving critical vaccines for five months, including the measles and tetanus vaccinations. But now cases of coronavirus in the camp have decreased, Modina is ready to get her daughter back on a vaccination schedule. “I’m thinking about starting the vaccinations again soon when my child is in good health. I was telling the doctor to wait few more days for my daughter to become healthier, then I will start the missed vaccinations for my child. I know how much she will benefit if she continues with the vaccinations.”

Hope for the future

With Humaida now able to catch up on her vaccines, and receive treatment when she gets ill, Modina is again hopeful for her children’s future. “If we can make it to the future safely, I want our children to grow up educated and to be able to earn a livelihood through good jobs and live the best life they can.

It’s a hope she shares with millions of mothers around the world; safety for their children through vaccination, no matter the challenging and perilous conditions around them.

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