The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is a partnership established in 1988 between UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other partners. Its goal is to stop transmission of the polio virus completely by 2005 so that the world can be certified polio-free. Since its inception in 1988 this partnership has cut the transmission of polio by more than 99 per cent. At present, polio is endemic in only 7 countries,the lowest number in history. However, pockets remain where the wild poliovirus still maims children. UNICEF's ongoing role is to provide vaccinators with OPV, the vaccine that protects children against the disease, and deliver it safely to children everywhere by maintaining the critical “cold chain”. It also plays a vital part in educating communties about the importance of vaccinating their children, training health workers and working with governments at both national and district level to coordinate National Immunization Days (NIDs), which can vaccinate as many as 150 million children at a time.
Reducing measles mortality
Measles kills more than any other vaccine-preventable disease: over 500,000 in 2003 alone. To achieve the goal of reducing measles deaths by 50 per cent by 2005, UNICEF has developed a Global Measles Strategic Plan with WHO, CDC and other partners and in consultation with numerous experts worldwide. Together with its partners, UNICEF aims to strengthen routine measles immunization along with supplemental campaigns in countries with low immunization coverage. Global measles deaths have plummeted by 39 per cent, from 873 000 in 1999 to an estimated 530 000 in 2003.
Recently, UNICEF supported mass immunizations in Africa as part of the Measles Partnership, an alliance that includes the American Red Cross, CDC, WHO and the United Nations Foundation. Ultimately, the initiative aims to vaccinate nearly 200 million children and prevent 1.2 million deaths in Africa from 2001-2005.
Eliminating Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus (MNT)
The initiative aims to eliminate MNT by 2005 and is focussed on vaccinating women of childbearing age (15-49 years) in 57 countries where tetanus still kills around 200,000 newborns and 30,000 mothers annually. MNT will be eliminated when there is less than one case per 1,000 live births in every district of every country in the world.
Led by UNICEF, the partnership to eliminate MNT includes WHO and the United Nations Population Fund, UNICEF National Committees in the US, UK, Sweden, France, Germany and Portugal and non-governmental organizations such as Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), Basic Support for Institutionalizing Child Survival (BASICS), Save the Children-US, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ronald MacDonald House Charities, Becton Dickinson and the Japanese International Agency for Cooperation.
The Vitamin A Global Initiative
Vitamin A is essential for the functioning of the immune system. Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) can cause blindness and greatly increase the risk that a child may die from diseases such as measles or diarrhoea. The Vitamin A Global Initiative was launched in 1997 and is a coalition of governments and United Nations agencies working to eliminate VAD by providing children with twice-yearly vitamin A capsules or by fortifying food, such as sugar or flour, with this vital micronutrient.
Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI)
UNICEF is a leading partner in the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), a far-reaching public-private partnership dedicated to increasing children’s access to vaccines in poor countries. The Alliance works to strengthen immunization systems, increase access to new and under-used vaccines and to spur the development of new vaccines against major killers that primarily affect the world’s poorest people.
Roll Back Malaria
The overarching goal of this initiative, launched in 1988, is to reduce malaria by 50 per cent by 2010. UNICEF is working with several partners – WHO, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank on two fronts: to prevent infection by providing insecticide-treated mosquito nets for children under the age of five and for pregnant women and to hasten recovery by ensuring that those suffering from malaria have rapid access to treatment.