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NEW YORK, 1 February 2005 - The new head of UNICEF's operation in Côte d’Ivoire, Representative Youssouf Oomar says ending the country’s civil unrest will have the biggest positive impact on the well-being of children. Mr. Oomar, who takes up his post this month, says the effects of the continued insecurity are among his biggest concerns.
“When there is instability, the worst-affected are children and women,” he says. “It is traumatic to live in this situation. We hope that the peace process that is being led by the South African President Thabo Mbeki, the UN Secretary-General and the African Union will yield positive results, and we look forward to working closely with them to make sure this peace happens.”
Instability has disrupted education and routine immunization in the north of Côte d’Ivoire. Fewer than half of all children have been vaccinated against preventable diseases such as measles, tetanus, tuberculosis, and polio.
But plans are continuing for the next round of polio vaccinations, when some 5.1 million children under five will be immunized. The effort is known as ‘National Immunization Days’ and reaches children throughout the country. The majority of the children will also get vitamin A supplements.
“We want to make sure the polio programme reaches each and every child who needs it,” says Mr. Oomar. Polio re-emerged in Côte d’Ivoire last year with 15 cases confirmed.
UNICEF is urgently seeking $120,000 to cover the operational costs of the National Immunization Days in Côte d’Ivoire, which take place 25-28 February.