WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, 15 October 2002 - The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have received a donation of $750,000 from America's Fund for Afghan Children (AFAC) to give a final boost to a measles vaccination campaign in Afghanistan and to support other ongoing health initiatives in that war-torn country.
At an October 11 ceremony at the White House, marking the one-year anniversary of the Fund, President Bush thanked the millions of children across America who sent in donations that they collected as part of an effort to help raise more than 10 million dollars for children in Afghanistan. AFAC was initiated by President Bush and is administered by the American Red Cross to help children in Afghanistan live safer and healthier lives.
UNICEF is the recipient of $500,000, which will allow the organization to complete its year-long effort to vaccinate over 10 million at-risk children in Afghanistan and prevent an estimated 35,000 deaths. So far, 8.25 million children ages six months to 12 years of age have been vaccinated against measles, but at least 90% coverage of the country is needed to successfully stop transmission of the disease. The donation from AFAC will help UNICEF and partners to reach the remaining 1.75 million children, particularly those in remote villages and newly returned refugees.
"This important donation, made by children in the United States, will go a long way towards saving the lives of children in Afghanistan," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. "With this contribution, measles will no longer be a major killer of children in Afghanistan. American children should be proud that their dollars and coins are making such a difference."
The Federation received $250,000 to support on-going routine immunization efforts by helping to increase the number of vaccinators and support community outreach activities to educate and encourage families to bring their children to be vaccinated. The Federation is a partner with the American Red Cross, UNICEF, and three other global health leaders in the Measles Initiative, a program leading the fight to eliminate measles in Africa.
"The American Red Cross is excited to contribute to saving so many lives in Afghanistan through the current vaccination campaign. Measles vaccination campaigns during humanitarian crises such as famines and refugee situations are critically important. Many times, measles can be a leading cause of death during these situations. By vaccinating children during a crisis, we can help prevent outbreaks. However, the best way is to prevent outbreaks by eliminating the disease entirely from a particular region, which is what UNICEF, the American Red Cross, the Federation and our other partners are accomplishing through the Measles Initiative," said Dr. Mark Grabowsky, senior health advisor for the American Red Cross.
The American Red Cross and UNICEF are two of the five partners involved in the Measles Initiative, a five year program to eliminate measles in Africa by vaccinating 200 million at-risk children, saving 1.2 million lives and bringing measles deaths to zero by 2005. Measles campaigns are the most known cost-effective public health interventions - for less than a dollar, a child can be vaccinated against measles. By December 2002, the Initiative will have vaccinated more than 68 million children in 18 African countries, saving more than 101,000 lives.
While the Measles Initiative is focused in Africa where the most measles-related deaths occur, partners also work on a wide-range of health initiatives around the world, including measles control and other vaccination services outside of Africa. Leading this effort are the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Nations Children's Fund, World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization. Other key players in the fight against measles include the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and countries and governments affected by measles. For additional information about the Measles Initiative, log on to www.measlesinitiative.org. To make a financial contribution, call 1-800 HELP NOW or to make a secure online donation, log on to www.measlesinitiative.org.
The focus of America's Fund for Afghan Children (AFAC) is to help the children of Afghanistan lead healthy and safe lives, and to provide them with educational opportunities. In its first year, more than 496,000 Afghan children have benefited from gifts of school chests (school supplies), winter relief items and the rehabilitation of a local hospital in Kabul. In addition, playgrounds are being created to provide a safe place for more than 120,000 children to play without the fear of landmines. As of September 19, 2002, more than 10 million dollars has been raised and nearly seven million dollars has been spent on relief services. AFAC plans are in place to provide supplies to more than 700,000 Afghan children in 2003. For more information visit kidsfund.redcross.org/.
Malik Jaffer, American Red Cross, International Programs, Middle East North Africa Region will be in Afghanistan beginning October 13 for six days and available for media interviews. To schedule an interview, please contact Julie Irby at 202-639-3512.
For further information please contact:
Julie Irby, American Red Cross, International Communication, (202) 639-3512
Sarah Telford, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Media Relations Officer, (212) 922-2646
Mohammad Jalloh, UNICEF Media, New York, (212) 326 7516
UNICEF is an international non-profit organization created by the United Nations in 1946 to assist children and women recover in the wake of World War II. Its mission was alter broadened to address the urgent needs of children throughout the developing world. Today UNICEF is present in more than 160 countries, helping children improve their chances of survival and grow to adulthood in health peace and dignity. UNICEF generates its entire income from the voluntary donations of individuals, businesses foundations and governments.