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UNICEF urges adversaries to allow health drive in Nepal

Nepal Conflict Blocks Life-saving Health Services to Children

LONDON/GENEVA/NEW YORK, 4 March 2005 – UNICEF called today on all parties to the conflict in Nepal to help facilitate the transport of vaccines, Vitamin A and de-worming drugs, which have been held up in the recent transport shutdown in the country.

“It is vital that these supplies reach remote areas as soon as possible,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, speaking from London.

“Both sides need to put the health of Nepal’s children first, and allow the national distribution of Vitamin A capsules and de-worming tablets to 3.3 million children to take place as scheduled in April.”

Without the twice-yearly Vitamin A distribution in Nepal, it is estimated that some 12,000 children annually would succumb to diseases they would otherwise survive. About half of Nepalese children are stunted and malnourished. Intestinal worm infections, a chronic problem, further reduce the amount of iron they absorb, leaving them weak and anaemic. 

“Similarly, measles has been killing some 5,000 children annually, “said Bellamy. “It’s essential the national measles vaccination programme can continue in April, when the weather warms, to reach children in the final seven mountainous districts.”

Life is a fragile threshold for thousands of Nepal’s children. Each day, some 194 children under five die from illnesses such as diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections, despite national vaccination and vitamin distribution campaigns. Almost 70,000 die each year from preventable causes.

Bellamy also noted that the conflict in Nepal is robbing children of their right to education. “Schools have been closed, attacked, bombed, mined, turned into barracks and their playgrounds dug with trenches. Teachers and students have been killed, detained and threatened. Thousands of students have been marched away for political indoctrination sessions . . .  some don’t return. It is a tragedy for a country and its children when those at war allow conflict to enter into the classroom. Schools must be left as safe havens for learning and playing.

Bellamy concluded, “It is possible for leaders from all sides to find common ground and an undeniable imperative to build a lasting peace. They just have to focus on their shared responsibility for safety and well-being of children.

“This was my message when I visited Nepal in 2003 – it remains my message now. The needs of the children of Nepal must come first.”

*  *  *  *

For further information, please contact:

Gordon Weiss, UNICEF New York, +1 212 326 7426, gweiss@unicef.org

Damien Personnaz, UNICEF Geneva, + 41 22 909 5716, dpersonnaz@unicef.org





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