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Joint statement

Despite difficulties, polio immunization drive underway in Iraq

GENEVA, NEW YORK, AMMAN, 14 November 2006 - A national polio immunization drive to protect 4.8 million Iraqi children was launched by the Iraqi Ministry of Health. The campaign was delayed for a week because of security concerns across parts of the country.

Over the next five days, over 5400 mobile vaccinators will travel house-to-house across Iraq to immunize every child under five against polio.  The campaign will help to maintain Iraq’s polio-free status, a public health triumph for children won through several successful immunization drives such as this latest one. Iraq’s last polio case was reported in 2000.

UNICEF is providing oral polio vaccines (OPV) for the campaign, as well as transport and communication support to help vaccinators reach children even in Iraq’s most remote and insecure areas. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also provided vital assistance to the Iraqi government for planning the campaigns, training local health staff and providing incentives for vaccinators.

This is Iraq’s second polio campaign of 2006. The first campaign was held in April/May and immunized over 96per cent of the target population. The second round of the current campaign will take place in December. 

Polio is a highly infectious and incurable disease that can cause lifelong paralysis.  Most of its victims are children under five years old. Although polio has been driven from Iraq, a recent global resurgence of the virus has brought a renewed threat to the region. Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Sudan have all been re-infected since 2004, making this week’s campaign critical to safeguard Iraq’s children.

UNICEF and WHO commend the Iraqi Ministry of Health, and in particular the vaccinators themselves, for their great commitment to ensure the success of the current campaigns. The UN Agencies are calling on everyone in Iraq to facilitate the vaccination effort.

Iraq is part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the world’s largest public health drive spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF.

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About UNICEF
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.


For further information please contact:

Michael Bociurkiw, UNICEF Geneva: Tel + 41 79 216 9401; mbociurkiw@unicef.org

Claire Hajaj, UNICEF Iraq Support Centre in Amman : Te l + 962 6 551 5921, Mobile + 962 796926190, chajaj@unicef.org


 

 

 

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