KATMANDU, NEPAL, 23 September 2004 - UNICEF notes with grave concern recent reports of the destruction of a health facility in Panchawati VDC in Udayapur, Nepal.
It is distressing that the bombing of the ilaka health post destroyed medical supplies including vaccines meant for the measles immunization campaign that started on 21 September.
"The measles campaign had been going on smoothly thus far, even under such difficult circumstances, thanks to the support of the conflicting parties," said UNICEF’s Representative, Dr Suomi Sakai. "We would like to believe that this remains an isolated incident and does not herald a setback in the campaign in any way."
Conflict has excaberated the already fragile health of children in rural Nepal. Every year 5,000 of the 150,000 children affected with measles in Nepal succumb to complications from the disease. Disruption of immunization services could mean an increase in the number of these fatalities.
"Through this national immunization campaign, we aim to reduce the number of deaths due to measles by half," said Dr. Sakai. "We cannot afford to let more Nepali children die because they did not receive the vaccine in time."
Arrangements are already being made to replenish the measles vaccines destroyed in the blast so that the campaign in Panchawati VDC can resume in the second round beginning in October. Vaccines will be transported from Biratnagar for the purpose. All other VDCs in the ilaka have already received their stock of measles vaccines and will complete the campaign by the end of September.
UNICEF once again urges everybody to put the best interest of children at the forefront of all our considerations. By destroying health facilities and disrupting the immunisation campaign, we are playing with children's lives.
For further information, please contact:
Rupa Joshi, Assistant Communication Officer, tel: 98510 54140, mailto:rjoshi@unicef,org