Today, almost 7.7 million of unimmunized children live in fragile or humanitarian settings, including countries affected by conflict. Children living in conflict are often the most vulnerable to disease outbreaks like measles and polio which can cause death or profound disability.
Globally, measles, diarrhoea, respiratory infections and malnutrition are major causes of childhood illness and death. In conflict and emergencies, effects of these maladies can worsen.
When children contract measles in non-conflict settings, fewer than 1 percent of them die. In areas where crowding and malnutrition are rife, such as refugee camps, children dying from measles can soar to up to 30 percent of cases. Overcrowding and lack of basic necessities like food, water and shelter make children even more vulnerable to disease.
“Conflict creates an ideal environment for disease outbreaks,” said UNICEF Chief of Immunization Robin Nandy. ”Children miss out out on basic immunizations because of the breakdown – and sometimes deliberate destruction – of vital health services. Even when medical services are available, insecurity in the area often prevents them from reaching children.”