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Press release

UNICEF and cultural Olympiad partner to vaccinate 1.4 million children

A $7 million gift to immunization; UNICEF to produce special greeting cards

NEW YORK / ATHENS, 6 December 2002 - UNICEF and the Cultural Olympiad, a new international organization set up to highlight the relationship between sports and culture, today began a partnership that will give over 1 million children a better chance of growing up free from disability and disease.

The Cultural Olympiad announced today that it will donate US $7 million to UNICEF's global immunization efforts, enabling UNICEF to reach 1.4 million children with life-saving vaccinations in poor, rural and hard-to-reach communities.

In exchange for the donation, UNICEF will gear its 2003 holiday greeting cards and 2004 spring greeting cards to themes related to sports and culture, conveying the spirit of goodwill and cross-cultural understanding that the Cultural Olympiad was created to promote.

"All of us at UNICEF are excited about this new partnership," said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Karin Sham Poo at a signing ceremony in New York. "Our mission - to change the world with children - fits very well with the optimistic, can-do spirit of the Olympic Games and the values of the Cultural Olympiad. UNICEF is optimistic and can-do, also, especially in the area of immunization, where our work helps save 3 million lives every year."

Sham Poo noted that UNICEF works in 160 countries and seeks to build a better world through investment in the health, education and protection of all children.

The donation marks the first effort in a long-term partnership that aims to bring greater international attention to the issues that affect children in all cultures.

The $7 million gift will be invested in UNICEF's 'Immunization Plus' programme during 2003. Immunization Plus is an expanded effort to deliver cost-effective vaccines and other medicines to communities with the most limited access to health facilities. The funds will allow UNICEF to immunize 1.4 million children under the age of five against six basic life-threatening diseases: measles, diphtheria, polio, tuberculosis, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus.

Host to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, the Greek government created the Cultural Olympiad to promote intercultural understanding and appreciation through a series of cultural events and international initiatives in the run-up to the Olympics and beyond.

Presenting the donation to UNICEF, the Greek Minister of Culture Professor Evangelos Venizelos said, "In certain parts of the world, the Cultural Olympiad's motto - 'For a Culture of Civilizations' - translates into a 'culture of survival' and aims to deal with vital problems, such as starvation or soaring death rates among children. Our work in this field, through our partnership with UNICEF, will deliver immediate positive results and set an international example for others to follow."

Among the international actions to promote the partnership will be the inclusion in UNICEF's Christmas 2003 and Spring 2004 card collections of 12 designs especially developed for the Cultural Olympiad in order to carry its messages world-wide.

The donation comes at a time when global indicators are pointing to a renewed urgency for routine vaccines and immunization coverage to prevent the re-introduction of old diseases and emergence of new infections. While vaccines have saved billions of lives in the past century and are still the least expensive way of controlling the spread of infectious diseases, they are not reaching the populations that need them most. In poor and isolated areas of developing countries, vaccines reach fewer than 1 in 20 children.



UNICEF is the leading advocate for children throughout the world, providing vaccines, clean water, medicine, nutrition, protection emergency relief and basic education for children in 162 countries and regions. Financial support for its work comes entirely from voluntary contributions. UNICEF is the lead organization in the purchase and distribution of vaccines in the developing world.
Immunization Plus is a strategic priority for UNICEF for the period 2002-2005 and refers to the delivery of a set of essential and cost-effective maternal and child health interventions. The Immunization Plus "package" is defined at national and often also at the local level, based on the needs and capacity of the system to deliver the services. The absolute minimum content is safe immunization with all available cost-effective vaccines and vitamin A capsule supplementation, the latter in areas where vitamin A deficiency is a public health problem.

About the Cultural Olympiad

The Cultural Olympiad is an initiative of the Greek Ministry of Culture in co-operation with the International Olympic Committee and UNESCO. This institution was created following the decision to hold the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. With the basic message "For a Culture of Civilizations", its mission is to add a more permanent value to the world of Olympic sports through a series of memorable and visible cultural events and initiatives, highlighting the universal values of the world's various civilizations. It therefore aspires to leave behind a growing and continuous, but new, cultural perspective and dimension to the Olympic ideal.
The Cultural Olympiad (C.O.) is organized by the Hellenic Culture Organization S.A.

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For further information, please contact:

Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326-7261

Era Vardaki, Hellenic Culture Organization, Athens (+30) 937 300 330