Increasing immunization coverage is priority for Ukrainian Government – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine
– Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko, representatives of the Ukrainian Government and the Presidential Administration have expressed their commitment to restore the routine immunization programme in Ukraine. Speaking at a high-level roundtable on immunization, organized by the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and UNICEF on the occasion of World Polio Day, Vice Prime Minister Rozenko said: “Evidence-based medicine confirms the effectiveness of vaccines to prevent diseases such as polio, tetanus or whooping cough. Increasing the rates of immunization coverage is an important task and a priority of the government and a matter of national security.” Ukraine currently has the lowest routine immunization rates in the world. According to the Ministry of Health data, only 30 percent of children in Ukraine were fully immunized against measles, only 10 percent against hepatitis B, and only 3 percent against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus, as of August 2016. Moreover, only 44 percent of children under 18 months of age were fully immunized against polio. Shortage of vaccine supplies has been one of the main reasons behind the critically low immunization rates in the past years. To address this, at the request of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, UNICEF has procured a number of high quality certified vaccines to protect children against dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases, namely tuberculosis (BCG), measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP), tetanus and diphtheria vaccine for adults (Td), paediatric diphtheria and tetanus (DT), rabies, and bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV). The vaccines are now available in health facilities across the country. “This time last year, Ukraine was dealing with a polio outbreak. The comprehensive outbreak response was successfully implemented with the help of international partners, but this success is still fragile”, said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. “With such low routine immunization coverage, Ukraine is still at risk of outbreaks of long-forgotten diseases. Today, with millions of doses of vaccines available across the country, there is no reason to delay vaccination. Being vaccinated is fundamental to guarantee child’s right to health and now more than ever, it is important for Ukraine to put in place a strong and effective immunization programme,” she added. Speaking at the event, Professor David Salisbury, Chairman of the European Regional Certification Commission for Poliomyelitis Eradication said: “The polio cases in 2015 in Ukraine happened as a direct consequence of failings in the provision of vaccines for children. Efforts have been made to redress these problems but there is still more that needs to be done to give the children of Ukraine protection from vaccine preventable diseases. I am greatly encouraged by the commitments that have been made today and I look forward to being able to remove Ukraine from our list of polio high-risk countries.” Representatives of the Governments of Canada and the United States of America, who provided funding for the polio outbreak response last year, reaffirmed their support for restoring the routine immunization programme in Ukraine. “Canada worked hard last year with Ukraine’s Health Ministry to get nationwide polio vaccination restarted. We are grateful to the thousands of doctors who helped vaccinate millions of children. This year, we are happy to see that the UN has made more vaccines available. But still, far too many children are not routinely fully vaccinated. I urge Ukrainian parents to take advantage of these free vaccines and protect their children from completely unnecessary illnesses,” said H.E. Roman Waschuk, Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine, speaking at the Roundtable today. "Ukraine must continue to build on the great progress that has been made globally to eradicate polio," explained USAID Ukraine Director Susan Fritz. "These positive developments will only have the necessary impact if there is strong and visible political support from leadership at all levels of the Ukrainian Government." “Myths about vaccination that have been spread in recent years are not rooted in evidence-based medicine. As a result, Ukraine has been dealing with cases of diseases that have been long-forgotten in the rest of the world. It is important that the Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, the Government and our international partners recognize the problem and are willing to work together with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine to resolve it. Increasing vaccination coverage rates in the country is our priority. This is not only a question of health and life of the citizens of Ukraine. This is a national security issue,” said Dr Ulana Suprun, Acting Minister of Health of Ukraine. “Necessary vaccines are available in all regions of the country. I appeal to all citizens who care about their life and health: get vaccinated and vaccinate your children,” added Dr Suprun. Nurse Ivana Knysh administers Maksym, 5, with a Hepatitis B vaccine as he holds his mother's hand, at Novoselytsi Family Medical Facility, Chernivtsi Oblast, Ukraine. UNICEF/UN060132/Oleksii Nurse Ivana Knysh administers Maksym, 5, with a Hepatitis B vaccine as he holds his mother's hand, at Novoselytsi Family Medical Facility, Chernivtsi Oblast, Ukraine.
Alarming global surge of measles cases a growing threat to children
1. Ukraine 30,338 2. Philippines 13,192 3. Brazil 10,262 4. Yemen 6,641 5. Venezuela 4,916 6. Serbia 4,355 7. Madagascar 4,307 8. Sudan 3,496 9. Thailand 2,758 10. France 2,269 Globally, 98 countries reported more cases of measles in 2018 compared to 2017, eroding progress against this highly preventable, but potentially deadly disease. Ukraine, the Philippines and Brazil saw the largest increases in measles cases from 2017 to 2018. In Ukraine alone, there were 35,120 cases of measles in 2018. According to the government, another 24,042 people were infected just in the first two months of 2019. In the Philippines so far this year, there have been 12,736 measles cases and 203 deaths 2 , compared to 15,599 cases in the whole of 2018. "This is a wake up call. We have a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine against a highly contagious disease – a vaccine that has saved almost a million lives every year over the last two decades,” said Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF’s Executive Director. “These cases haven’t happened overnight. Just as the serious outbreaks we are seeing today took hold in 2018, lack of action today will have disastrous consequences for children tomorrow." Measles is highly contagious, more so than Ebola, tuberculosis or influenza. The virus can be contracted by someone up to two hours after an infected person has left a room. It spreads through air and infects the respiratory tract, potentially killing malnourished children or babies too young to be vaccinated. Once infected, there is no specific treatment for measles, so vaccination is a life-saving tool for children. In response to these outbreaks, UNICEF and its partners are supporting governments to urgently reach millions of children in countries around the globe. For example: In Ukraine, UNICEF has provided ongoing support to accelerate routine immunization across the country and address vaccine hesitancy, including additional efforts to stop the most recent outbreak that has claimed 30 lives since 2017. In February, the Ministry of Health, with UNICEF’s support, launched an immunization drive at schools and clinics in the worst-hit Lviv region in western Ukraine, where negative attitudes toward immunization, and previous shortages in vaccine supply, have resulted in low vaccination rates. In the
Improving health literacy among refugee and migrant children
UNICEF has worked with partners and with young refugees and migrants on the ground to identify information gaps – work that has, in turn, guided the development of health literacy packages across all five countries on a range of crucial health issues, from immunization and nutrition to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and gender-based violence (GBV). The assessment has shaped the development of detailed plans on how to ensure that health messages reach their audience and have an impact. The health literacy packages have also drawn on existing materials, including Facts for Life , My Safety and Resilience Girls Pocket Guide and an adapted version of the UNFPA curriculum: ‘Boys on the Move’. Refugees and migrants face a chronic lack of health information in their own languages, and a lack of information that reaches them through the channels or people they trust health navigation Some common priorities have been identified by refugees and migrants across all five countries, including access to immunization and other primary health care services, breastfeeding and young child feeding, and the prevention of GBV. They have also flagged up the pressing need for more mental health and psychological services. Other issues have emerged as priorities in specific countries, including cyberbullying and online safety in Italy, and substance abuse among young people In Serbia – the focus of a new in-depth UNICEF study. Not surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic is a new and urgent priority for refugee and migrant communities – and one that has heightened the health risks they already face by curtailing their movements and their access to health services. A consultation with refugee and migrant adolescents and young people living in Italy has revealed major gaps in their knowledge about sexual and reproductive health, drawing on an online survey, a U-Report poll and a series of focus group discussions. It has highlighted some common misunderstandings, such as the myth that masturbation causes infertility, and continued perceptions around the importance of a woman’s virginity at marriage, as well as knowledge gaps around menstruation, pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. The consultation also found, however, that the young participants want to know far more about this crucial area of health. As one young man from Guinea noted during a focus group discussion: “often young people do not want to know if they have an infection, also because they are not aware that these can be treated. It is so critical to raise awareness on STIs tests and treatment options.”
With financial support from the European Union UNICEF launches the ‘RM Child-Health’ project to strengthen vulnerable refugee and migrant children’s health
– Under the Health Programme of the European Union, the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety has committed a project grant to UNICEF to support work ensuring refugee and migrant children and their families have access to quality health care and accurate health information in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Spain, Bosnia Herzegovina and Serbia. Refugee and migrant children and their families often have more health-related risks and face a number of barriers accessing quality health care. Many children and families also live with severe emotional distress due to the trauma of fleeing home, undertaking dangerous journeys and experiencing abuse and exploitation, including sexual and gender-based violence. The global COVID19 pandemic further exacerbates these health challenges. “With the ongoing pandemic, protecting every child and adult’s right to health care and accurate heath information is paramount. This collaboration with the EU Health Programme will help ensure the most vulnerable refugee and migrant children will have better access to primary healthcare services, psychosocial support as well as violence prevention and response services,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and Special Coordinator for the Refuge and Migrant Response in Europe, Ms. Afshan Khan. The project ‘RM Child-Health’ will help improve the health of refugee and migrant children by improving their access to life-saving immunizations, mental health and psychosocial support, gender-based violence prevention and response activities as well as maternal and newborn health care and nutrition support. Information materials on health-related risks and services available for refugee and migrant populations will be created and shared. Medical interpreters and cultural mediators will be deployed to support communication between children and families and health care providers. The project ‘RM Child-Health’ will also support training programmes so frontline health care workers can better respond to the specific needs of refugee and migrant children and their families. In parallel, national health authorities will benefit from technical support to develop, update and improve the implementation of health policies and address bottlenecks in national health systems that currently prevent refugee and migrant children from accessing services. Refugee mother feeding her baby at ADRA community centre in Belgrade. UNICEF/UNI220342/Pancic