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Unlikely partners unite to fight preventable disease in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, 23 February 2007 – Yesterday, the Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI) support plan was launched in Port-au-Prince. The EPI support plan aims to reinforce routine immunization in a country with the poorest child survival rate in Latin America and the Caribbean. In fact, one of 17 infants in Haiti dies before his or her first birthday.

The support plan brings together an unusual partnership between Canada, Brazil and Haiti. The government of Brazil will be supporting the introduction of new vaccines, the Canadian International Development Agency(CIDA) will provide 17.5 million Canadian dollars in funding over the next five years to further strengthen routine immunization, and the Haitian government will provide coordination and implementation support. “This is an innovative collaboration between a North American, South American, and Caribbean country; we hope the first of many more to come”, said Darren Schemmer, Director General of the Haiti Programme at CIDA.

The initiative complements other major contributions. "I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the Japanese Government who, for the past three years, has provided the necessary funding to ensure vaccine availability for routine vaccination throughout the country", said UNICEF representative Adriano Gonzalez-Regueral. “We estimate that the combined effort will save 100,000 lives annually.”

Vaccination has proven to be one of the most successful and cost-effective public health interventions. From 2002 to 2006, vaccination coverage in Haiti has been steadily rising; no cases of either measles or polio have been reported since September of 2001. According to the latest demographic and health survey (EMMUS IV), the infant mortality rate has dropped from 80.3 to 57 per 1000 from 2000 to 2005.

However, cost and distance of basic heath care services continue to be a challenge to children living in both urban and rural areas. Political instability has been a major setback in reestablishing Haiti’s health network. Only 54 per cent of Haitian children under the age of one received vaccinations for measles, compared to over 90 per cent for the rest of Latin America and 66 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa. “At a point in time when diseases are ravaging the country and destabilizing generations, especially children; we have the obligation to respond with efficiency and solidarity», said UNICEF representative Adriano Gonzalez-Regueral. 

The initial focus of the plan, administered by the Minister of Public Health and Population with the support of WHO and UNICEF will vaccinate 300,000 children under the age of one and one million women of child-bearing age. The EPI support plan has three main goals: to reinforce and support routine vaccination; to control vaccine-preventable diseases; and to introduce a range of newly available vaccines. Dr Joseline Marhone Pierre, from the Ministry of Public Health and Population added, “In Haiti, 5.7 per cent of children die within their first year of life and 8.6 per cent before the age of five. This situation involves us all, and we are obliged to look for new strategies to solve this problem.”

WHO and UNICEF will assist the government in designing and implementing a strengthened sustainable national immunization programmes that meet the specific needs of Haiti’s people.

About UNICEF

UNICEF is on the ground in 155 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:

Linda Tom, Communication Specialist, Tel: (509) 245 3525 Ext. 276; ltom@unicef.org

Viviana Fernandez, Communication Consultant, Tel: (509) 245-3525 Ext. 272; vfernandez@unicef.org


 

 

 

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