International Medical Corps Works to Eliminate Polio Among Afghan Refugees

November 01, 2001

The 10,000 families living in New Shamshatoo camp, 40 km north of Peshawar, Pakistan, live in conditions where polio epidemics can flourish, causing death or paralysis. Infants and children are at greatest risk. Thanks to the efforts of International Medical Corps, as part of National Immunization Day (NID), almost 100% of these children were vaccinated.

Forty two International Medical Corps teams, each consisting of two people, vaccinator and register, visited every mud hut in New Shamshatoo, home to 52,000 individuals, as well as in Kacha Gari, Jahad Kelly, Chiwa, Zandai refugee camps in a national campaign that began on September 25, 25 and 27 and ended November 6, 7, and 8.

For the NID, International Medical Corps divided their part of New Shamshatoo camp to the six sectors. Six vaccinator teams went to every family, distributing thousands doses of polio vaccines and Vitamin A drops to the children under five years of age. Vitamin A deficiency is responsible for visual defects and increased susceptibility to infections and is likely to occur in any refugee or displaced population.

International Medical Corps has been providing health services in one of four sectors at New Shamshatoo camp since February 1, 2001, serving a population of 11.540.

The International Medical Corps BHU [Basic Health Unit] team in New Shamshatoo camp consist out of three doctors, two nurses -one of whom is working as a pharmacist, one laboratory technician, one vaccinator and one receptionist. They see around 1600 patients per month and and provide the following: EPI (Expanded Program of Immunization), MCH, (Mother and Child Health), a pharmacy, health education, nursing, laboratory, food demonstration, TB control program services.

As part of its commitment to building self-reliance through training, International Medical Corps has also trained 43 CHWs [Community Heath Workers], 2 CHSs [Community Health Supervisors] and 14 TBAs [Traditional Birth Attendants]. The most important communication channel between International Medical Corps and the camp community, they have also very significant role in Health education, EPI, Antenatal and Postnatal care and Growth monitoring program.

As Afghans flee their homes for the safety of border area camps, the population growth of New Shamshatoo camp has become exponential. According to the month end census for October 2001, 1765 individuals migrated in to the camp, jumping from 19 new arrivals in September.

New Shamshatoo camp was opened in December 1999 by United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees and the Government of Pakistan on the site of an old camp that had closed in 1994. According to UNHCR, of the approximately 52,000 individuals living there, almost all arrived in Pakistan between September 2000 and January 2001. UNHCR reports that 74% of the residents are Tajik, Uzbek, Turkman or Hazara, while the remaining 26% are Pushtun; that the residents originate from Baghlan, Balkh, Kabul, Kapisa, Laghman, Parwan and Takhar provinces in Afghanistan.


For 30 years, International Medical Corps has worked to relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster and disease by delivering vital health care services that focus on training, helping devastated populations return to self-reliance.