UNICEF and Partners Push Ahead With Polio
and Measles Campaigns for Iraqi Children
Polio Immunization Begins 23 February, Measles Effort
Early in March; Bellamy Cites 'Race Against Time'
Access more information about the children
of Iraq at UNICEF's online Iraq
UNICEF today releases all-new video footage from
inside Iraq, illustrating the condition of Iraqi
children in the areas of health, nutrition, education,
and access to water. The b-roll also includes
recent pictures of relief supplies being packed
at UNICEF's global warehouse and being offloaded
in the region. For a Beta
copy of the b-roll, along with shot descriptions.
GENEVA / NEW YORK, 18 February 2003 - In the shadow of
ongoing international debate over a potential conflict
in Iraq, health workers are expected to fan out across
the country from 23-27 February to immunize more than
4 million Iraqi children against polio, UNICEF announced
UNICEF is also supporting an accelerated campaign against
measles, which spreads rapidly within displaced populations
and kills more children than any other disease.
Both campaigns are extensions of ongoing immunization
efforts in Iraq, led by the Ministry of Health and supported
by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the Red
"The situation of Iraqi children has been very difficult
for more than 15 years," said Carol Bellamy, Executive
Director of UNICEF. "No matter what the global situation,
we cannot shrink from the ongoing work of reaching out
to help them. Amidst many distractions, we must all keep
the children of Iraq uppermost in our minds and do everything
we can to protect them."
Bellamy pointed out that one out of eight Iraqi children
dies before the age of five - one of the worst rates in
the world. She also noted that:
· One-third of Iraqi children are malnourished
· One-quarter are born underweight
· One quarter of school-age children do not go
· One-quarter do not have access to safe water
"There's just no question that Iraqi children are
extremely vulnerable," Bellamy said. "Whatever
comes, their health and well-being must continue to be
UNICEF said the polio campaign is crucial to protecting
not only Iraqi children from the disease but also to preventing
polio outbreaks elsewhere in the region.
"To eliminate polio, you have to shut it down everywhere,"
Bellamy noted. "This is a disease that crosses borders
easily, so it is essential that we complete this year's
immunization and reach every child." Although Iraq
suffered a major outbreak of polio in 1999, increased
assistance from UNICEF and WHO has led to zero cases since
To reach 4 million Iraqi children during next week's
polio campaign, more than 14,000 health workers will go
door-to-door making sure that each child has been protected.
Bellamy said that the Ministry of Health deserves credit
for pushing ahead with the campaigns under difficult circumstances.
She noted that the campaigns would not be possible without
the shared commitment of the ministry, WHO, and the Red
"For many people, this campaign is an act of hope
and faith in the future," Bellamy declared. "And
it's a major achievement for a country that has been devastated
by two major wars and 12 years of sanctions."
Urgent Measles Campaign
Noting that time had become a rather unpredictable commodity,
Bellamy said UNICEF and its partners are also pushing
forward with an expanded campaign against measles.
With the help of health workers and volunteers, routine
measles immunization for children under five has been
intensified, she said. Among other things, UNICEF is supporting
door-to-door efforts to track down and vaccinate children
who missed the measles vaccination in earlier efforts.
According to UNICEF, there are close to half a million
Iraqi children under five that have not been vaccinated
"Finding these children is an important undertaking,"
said Carel de Rooy, UNICEF's Representative in Iraq, noting
that measles spreads rapidly when children are displaced
from home and living in makeshift quarters. "We have
volunteers poring over vaccination records and going door-to-door
to locate them and make sure they are immunized."
Once children under five have been vaccinated, UNICEF
will turn its attention to older children between the
ages of six and 12, many of whom were not vaccinated against
measles in the mid 1990s when vaccines were in short supply.
Children who missed being vaccinated when they were younger
could easily infect children in the more susceptible under-five
UNICEF is shipping in half a million doses of measles
vaccine to supplement government stocks for the campaign.
UNICEF has also provided funds for health workers, supervisors,
and independent monitors, and is covering the costs of
transport and community mobilization for both polio and
"We are still hopeful that peace will prevail,"
Bellamy said. "But as the Secretary-General has said,
the UN has a responsibility to be prepared should the
UNICEF has pre-positioned hundreds of tonnes of relief
supplies in the Iraq region, including medicines, nutritional
supplements for children, water equipment and other items
- part of a broader effort by the UN family to be ready
for humanitarian contingencies.
UNICEF has provided direct support to Iraqi children
since 1953. It opened a permanent field operation in Iraq
in the early 1980s and has been present ever since. UNICEF
has nearly 300 staff in Iraq and supports efforts to ensure
that Iraqi children are immunized, well-nourished, and
have access to safe water and decent sanitation, as well
as a quality basic education.
For further information please contact us:Geoffrey
Keele, UNICEF Iraq: firstname.lastname@example.org (+964-1) 719-2318**
Anis Salem, UNICEF
Amman: email@example.com (+962-6) 553-9977 **Wivina
Belmonte, UNICEF Geneva: firstname.lastname@example.org, (+41-79)
Ironside, UNICEF New York, email@example.com (+1-212)