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Immunization Drive In Afghanistan

UN Immunization Drive In Afghanistan Aims To Reduce Child And Maternal Deaths

New York, Sep 13 2006 10:00AM

A newly launched United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) immunization campaign in Afghanistan aims to reduce child measles mortality by 90 per cent and to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus.

Overall, Afghanistan’s infant mortality rate is alarmingly high at over 25 per cent, according to the agency. Measles is a major cause of child death, and tetanus – which often results from unsanitary conditions at delivery – is a leading killer of mothers and their newborn babies.

In the complex immunization effort now under way, more than 4 million children under five will be vaccinated against measles and an estimated 4.2 million women of child bearing age are to receive tetanus vaccine, UNICEF said in a press release. Mothers who have been vaccinated will pass on tetanus immunity to their children for the first nine months of life.

Remote provinces such as Bamyan are being targeted by the campaign. Located in mountainous central Afghanistan, Bamyan poses a security and access challenge for vaccinators.

“Some children live in remote mountain villages that are hard to reach because the country lacks a transportation infrastructure,” said UNICEF health advisor Agostino Paganini. “There are also gender issues. Even now, many women are wary of moving around freely, so we need to be very culturally sensitive.”

The people of Bamyan have limited access to health care, and the province’s child and maternal mortality rates are among the world’s highest.

UNICEF and its partners are supplying vaccines and training for health care workers to travel to remote regions such as Bamyan in the current campaign. Temporary immunization posts are set up in village centres, where children get their measles vaccinations. Teams then go from house to house to immunize women against tetanus.

The immunization drive is expected to cover all of Afghanistan in phases, starting with hard-to-reach areas in nine provinces. Vaccination teams plan to visit these provinces before November – when snow will likely block the roads – before proceeding to the second phase, which encompasses another 25 provinces.

Diseases such as measles and tetanus can be easily prevented, and UNICEF said Afghanistan’s dual campaign to fight these diseases will ensure healthier lives for children and their mothers.

Ends

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