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UNICEF and Ministry of Health and Social Welfare working to expand reach of vaccination coverage

Four-wheel drive vehicles, motorcycles, and computers donated to Government of Liberia

MONROVIA, 27 July 2006 – In partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, has turned over new four-wheel drive vehicles, motorcycles, and computers to the Government of Liberia. The supplies will be used to support the Ministry’s Expanded Programme of Immunization and Environmental Health Sections as well as all 15 of Liberia’s County Health Teams.

“The challenges we are facing are real and while the Government has the ability to respond to the needs, we need additional resources and materials,” said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during a handover ceremony at the Executive Mansion on Saturday. “These vehicles and supplies are going to our counties, to rural areas where the need is greatest….It will give our people more hope.

“UNICEF has been in Liberia for a long time, and during difficult times. During times of war, when others fled, UNICEF was there to respond to the needs of children,” President Sirleaf said. “This is a tremendous gift.”

The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, the Hon. Walter Gwenigale, MD, thanked UNICEF for the donation, describing it as greatly needed.

“Wednesday is Liberia’s 159th Independence Day and it is a tradition among Liberians to give presents on the 26th of July, so UNICEF, you’re a few days early, but on behalf of the Ministry, we say thank you very much for these lifesaving supplies,” said Dr. Gwenigale. “These supplies will be put to use in all of our 15 counties and are part of the Government’s 150-day deliverables to our people.”

Dr. Gwenigale explained that UNICEF has pledged 16 new Toyota Hilux trucks to the Ministry’s Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI) section, which protects children and women against seven preventable deadly diseases: tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles, yellow fever, and polio. To help oversee the national EPI programme, the EPI Division at the Ministry of Health in Monrovia is also receiving a vehicle. Fifteen Hewlett-Packard computers will be provided to the County Health Teams. The computers are for data management and processing to enable the teams to collect, analyze, and act in a timely manner.

“As soon as the vehicles arrive in the country, they will be assigned to county health teams across the country,” said Dr. Gwenigale. “We also want to thank UNICEF Liberia’s Water and Environmental Sanitation Section which is providing the Ministry’s Environmental Health Section with 20 Yamaha A100 motorcycles to conduct outreach efforts in hard-to-reach communities. Our health teams need to reach and work in every corner and very village of Liberia, and thanks to UNICEF and its partners we are making steady progress in reaching this goal.”

The motorcycles will also be used to gather data that will aid in the targeting of affected communities with interventions in hygiene improvement to significantly reduce cholera and diarrhoea cases. Cholera is endemic in Liberia, and diarrhoea is responsible for 22% of the deaths of children under the age of five. 

Dr. Gwenigale also thanked UNICEF for the 165 solar refrigerators the UN agency will be providing to Liberian hospitals and clinics in 2006. The refrigerators will be used to protect the national cold chain, which stores vaccines at correct temperatures.

UNICEF Liberia’s Officer in Charge, Bjorn E. Forssen, credited the Government’s strong commitment to public health and said UNICEF is committed to working with the Government to protect every child from vaccine preventable diseases.

“For the first time in Liberia, a national tetanus vaccination campaign got underway last month that aims to reach 800,000 women of child bearing age and eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in the country by 2008. According to a 2001 health survey, tetanus was the second major cause of morbidity for children in Liberia under age one, so our work together is of vital importance,” said Dr.  Forssen.

Dr.  Forssen has pledged UNICEF’s continued collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, stressing the crucial task before the ministry in Liberia’s post-conflict recovery and reconstruction drive.



For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Patrick Slavin, Communications Officer, UNICEF Liberia, Tel. +231-6-834-019, pslavin@unicef.org

To receive a copy of this press release and other communications materials via e-mail, please contact Samuel W. Johnson, UNICEF Liberia, Tel. +231-6-528-283, sjohnson@unicef.org




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