|© UNICEF video|
|Mothers and children wait to be vaccinated in Ferekeni, DRC|
NEW YORK, 28 February 2005 – The conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world and has bred a generation of children who are sadly versed in violence and disruption.
Although a peace agreement was signed in 2003 to end the six year civil war, sporadic fighting between tribes continues to disrupt the lives of thousands in the eastern regions of the country.
But the peace, however precarious, also provides hope that children living in previously inaccessible areas will have access to health care. A UNICEF supported immunization drive, which begins officially in March will send vaccinators into villages across the country to immunize children against a host of childhood diseases.
“In war zones, children die because they’re cut off from the basic tools they need to survive,” said Johannes Wedenig, UNICEF Head in DR Congo. “Immunization dramatically increases a child’s chances of survival, so finding a way to deliver vaccines safely has been a major priority.”
The DR Congo has one of the highest under-five mortality rates in the world. Each year more than 200 out of a thousand children die from preventable causes. The tragedy is that in many cases a simple, inexpensive vaccine could have kept them alive.
UNICEF’s goal for this immunization drive is to see children comprehensively protected against tuberculosis, pertusis, yellow fever, polio and tetanus.
To reach the most remote villages, vaccinators will have to make long journeys through almost inpenetrable bush. In this country, hostile terrain is another reason why almost 80 per cent of children have not had even the most basic of health care services.
“It’s very important to reach places that have long been non-accessible for humanitarian aid,” said Bruno Moonen, UNICEF Health Officer. “For many children in places like Ferekeni, this will the first time they have ever seen a vaccine.”