UNICEF supports the Government in launching a Lead Surveillance System in Georgia
TBILISI, Georgia, 5 October 2023 – UNICEF, in partnership with the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia and with the support of the Clarios Foundation, has been supporting the Government in launching a Lead Surveillance System to monitor lead exposure in Georgia.
The Lead Surveillance System includes annual monitoring of blood lead levels in children, nationally and regionally, in order to measure changes over time and to detect sources of exposure. The System has been launched in two regions of Georgia, Imereti and Adjara Autonomous Republic, which have the highest rates of lead exposure in children. The piloting of the System will allow for valuable data to be collected and used to inform the expansion of the Lead Surveillance System to other regions.
Representative of UNICEF in Georgia, Jesper Moller, visited the health clinics in Batumi to monitor the implementation of the Lead Surveillance System.
“Introduction of the Lead Surveillance System is an important step for the elimination of lead poisoning”, said Jesper Moller, Representative of UNICEF in Georgia. “UNICEF has chosen a holistic and consistent approach to solve the problem which includes evidence generation, capacity building and electronic surveillance system that allows real-time analysis of the data to identify the sources of exposure. UNICEF in partnership Clarios Foundation continues supporting the Government in addressing lead prevalence in Georgia”.
During the pilot phase, a new methodology of microvolume capillary blood collection is being introduced. This novel method envisages very simple logistics in terms of collection, storage and transportation of blood samples, and most importantly is less invasive and stressful for children compared to venous blood collection.
To support the Government in tackling lead exposure, UNICEF developed a three-pillar response plan. The first and immediate action was to determine the scale of the problem by conducting a nation-wide survey, the Multiple Cluster Indicator Survey (MICS), which revealed that over 40 per cent of children in Georgia had elevated lead levels in blood. Another pillar was helping the Government in designing the national response plan to eliminate lead exposure. This included advocacy for and technical assistance to the State Lead Programme for the provision of free blood testing and treatment for children who had high lead levels in their blood. This also included establishment of a chemical risk factor laboratory at the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia. UNICEF supported in equipping the Laboratory with specialized equipment, and in trainings for the laboratory staff. The laboratory is an important component of the Lead Surveillance System. The data and evidence obtained through the Lead Surveillance System will inform the policy interventions aimed at elimination of lead poisoning.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/georgia/