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News note

Measles vaccination campaign faces up to challenges of ongoing Lebanon conflict

BEIRUT, 7 August 2006 – The campaign to protect tens of thousands of children displaced by the ongoing conflict in Lebanon against the twin threat of measles and polio is moving up a gear this week.

At risk are children sheltering in over 800 schools and other public institutions around the country, as well as an even larger number who have found shelter with relatives and friends.

It’s feared that outbreaks of measles and polio could easily occur in the crowded and unsanitary conditions in which many displaced families now find themselves.

The immunisation drive began in Beirut last week under the leadership of the Ministry of Health, with the support of UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and a variety of NGO partners. It is now expanding to other parts of the country.

With no sign of a let-up in the conflict, the campaign faces serious challenges.  Families displaced by the bombardment and fighting in the south have been widely scattered: according to Lebanon’s Higher Relief Commission, some 130,000 people are currently living in 823 schools and other public locations. An even larger number – 565,000 – is thought to have found shelter with relatives and friends.

Vaccination teams must cover each location despite the worsening shortage of fuel gripping the country.

“For this campaign to be effective, we must ensure every child that is at risk of these diseases is properly vaccinated,” said UNICEF Lebanon Representative Roberto Laurenti.

An equally important issue is the consignment of measles and polo vaccine which UNICEF air freighted to Syria and plans to bring to Lebanon later this week.  Any delay in receiving the vaccines will seriously compromise the campaign, say UNICEF officials.

Injectable measles vaccine is given to children up to the age of 15. Polio drops are given to children up to the age of five.

Since the start of the crisis in Lebanon, UNICEF has provided:

• Essential drugs (including ORS & lice treatment) reaching  50,000

• 48 water tanks with a 5,000 litres capacity, to the Beirut, Aley and Chouf areas; Beneficiaries reached: 23,347 persons.

• 60,000 litres of bottled water to communities in south Lebanon.

• 337 water kits (containing  collapsible containers, purification tablets and other items) throughout Beirut, Mount Lebanon, the South, North, and Bekaa; IDPs reached: 78,000.

• 3,150 boxes of water purification tablets to Beirut and the South; IDPs reached: 63,000

• 26,396 bags/bars of soap to Beirut, Mount Lebanon, the South, North, Bekaa; IDPs reached: 101,000

• 263,000 diapers to Beirut, Mount Lebanon, the South, North, and Bekaa; IDPs reached: 88,000.

• 180 recreation kits containing footballs and other games equipment. Children reached: 16,200

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 more information:

Jehane Sedky-Lavandero, UNICEF New York: (+1 212) 326 7261; jsedky@unicef.org

M. Anis Salem, UNICEF Amman: (+962) 79 557 9991 email; asalem@unicef.org

Wolfgang Friedl, UNICEF Amman: (+962) 6 553 9977 ext 422; wfriedl@unicef.org

Soha Boustani, UNICEF Beirut (+961) 3 236 167; sboustani@unicef.org

Simon Ingram, UNICEF Beirut (+961) 70 971 387 singram@unicef.org

Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Geneva: (+41 22) 909 5712; wbelmonte@unicef.org




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