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Unicef Launches Immunisation Campaign

MEDIA RELEASE


Unicef Launches Immunisation Campaign


A major New Zealand campaign to raise funds to immunise the world's children was launched at Parliament today by the President of the National Council of Timorese Resistance, Mr Xanana Gusmão.

Speaking by video link Mr Gusmão endorsed the UNICEF Children's Challenge campaign.

UNICEF, which has worked with the Timorese people since the early 1980s, is carrying out mass immunisation campaigns in East Timor against childhood diseases and is also helping rebuild that country’s health systems.

Mr Gusmão thanked UNICEF for its work in his country, which was struggling to look after its people in “post war” conditions.

The UNICEF Children's Challenge follows a challenge from former South African President Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel and UNICEF International's Carol Bellamy to all leaders around the globe to mobilise for children. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark picked up the challenge and is also supporting this latest UNICEF initiative in New Zealand.

Health Minister, Hon Annette King, who hosted today’s launch, spoke of the need to tackle immunisation against childhood diseases on a global scale.

"We recognise that while there is more work to do to improve immunisation rates in New Zealand, the issue of immunisation against these six vaccine preventable diseases is a global problem. We applaud UNICEF New Zealand for its work to improve the lives of the world's children through immunisation," she said.

The UNICEF Children’s Challenge has gained the support of several prominent citizens – All Black Jonah Lomu, Silver Fern captain Bernice Mene, television personality Jon Bridges, radio host John Dunne, and immunisation specialist Dr Nikki Turner. Two of the Children’s Challenge “champions” peace activist, former politician and trade unionist Sonja Davies (TB) and broadcaster Richard Griffin (polio) have each suffered from one of the six diseases being targeted.

UNICEF's global immunisation campaign is a key part of its child health programmes that are anchored in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"We see growing up disease-free as a basic right for every child. It costs just $35 to immunise a child against the six diseases being targeted in our campaign – polio, measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus and tuberculosis, UNICEF’s National Manager Jeff Brown said.

" We're asking New Zealanders to dig into their pockets and find that $35 to immunise one child for life."

There are 30 million children born every year in poor countries who are not receiving these six basic immunisations, he said.

"Each year, nearly three million children worldwide still die needlessly of vaccine preventable illnesses," Mr Brown said.

But through mass vaccination programmes, some of the diseases were close to eradication, he said.

"Polio, a disease that has crippled so many people is one. The Western Hemisphere was declared polio free in 1994. In the rest of the world, however, polio still strikes 30 victims a day, mostly children."

UNICEF is part of a global initiative to see the complete eradication of polio by 2005.

To donate to the Children’s Challenge please call 0800 800 194


For more information contact:

Jeff Brown National Manager, UNICEF New Zealand)
Ph (04) 473 0879 or A/H (04) 4764191

Debbie Hannan (Project Co-ordinator)
Ph (025) 501 353

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