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Unicef Helps Vaccinate 320,000 Children

Lebanon: Unicef Helps Vaccinate 320,000 Children Against Polio


New York, Oct 30 2006 5:00PM

More than 320,000 young children throughout Lebanon will receive the first round of polio vaccinations in a United Nations-backed national immunization campaign starting today following the severe disruption of routine health services caused by this summer’s conflict between Israel and Hizbollah.

“To keep Lebanon polio-free and protect children’s health, it is critical to immunize every single child,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) country representative Roberto Laurenti said of the first phase of the campaign, which last until Saturday.

“The recent conflict severely disrupted routine vaccinations and public health systems. Since people from polio-affected countries in the region regularly move in and out of Lebanon, children are now vulnerable to infection. We need to act quickly and on a massive scale to eliminate that risk.”

Some 2,000 volunteers, trained by UNICEF and the Health Ministry, are going door-to-door to all homes and public health centres to ensure that all children under five are immunized against this devastating disease. The second round of vaccinations will take place in December.

UNICEF has provided 1 million doses of the orally-administered polio vaccine, as well as cold-chain equipment, including 1,000 temperature-controlled vaccine carriers, to preserve the vaccine as it is stored and transported. This is more than enough to supply both the first and second rounds of the campaign.

Although Lebanon was declared polio-free in 2002, and Lebanese children are normally vaccinated through primary-care services, these were disrupted by the summer’s conflict as mass numbers of children and their families were displaced from their homes.

During the fighting, UNICEF supported an urgent immunization campaign in camps and host homes for internally-displaced persons, vaccinating 8,000 children up to five years of age against polio, and 21,000 children under 15 against measles.

But dangerous and unstable conditions made it impossible to reach many children in the southern regions most affected by bombing, and the constant movement of children between locations made tracking extremely difficult.

To remind parents of the importance of polio immunization and ensure that their children receive their free vaccinations, UNICEF has conducted a series of national awareness activities, including TV and radio ads, posters and flyers.

Ends

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