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UNICEF immunises 100,000 children and women in camps in southern Somalia

AFGOYE-MOGADISHU CORRIDOR, 5 December 2007 - Approximately 47,600 children under five and 56,000 women who live in camps along the Mogadishu-Afgoye corridor will receive a package of critical life saving interventions to ensure their health and well-being, this week.

“95 per cent of Somali children under the age of five have not received the full recommended course of vaccinations,” said UNICEF’s Representative to Somalia, Christian Balslev-Olesen. “And if you consider that ten percent of the country’s population has had to flee their homes – with these numbers increasing every day - then we have to find effective means of delivering services to these people. This is why UNICEF and its partners have organised campaigns like this one to reach every child.”

Somalia has some of the worst social indicators for children in the world, one in eight children dies before his fifth birthday, one in three is chronically malnourished, hardly a third of families have access to clean drinking water, just 30 per cent of children go to school and on average people only live to the age of 47.

“If the United Nations is to remain relevant and improve the lives of Somalis, then we need to be more aggressive in how we reach children who need us,” stressed Balslev-Olesen.

This immunization campaign is one of three that UNICEF and its partners will organize in the coming weeks. UNICEF is complementing these campaigns through sustainable efforts to deliver clean water, sanitation and education facilities, as well as to improve the delivery and quality of health and social protection services.

With the fall of Somalia’s government in 1991, the country’s health system has faced severe challenges in providing essential services to its population. However, recent data coming out of the country indicates that effective awareness - raising campaigns and temporary and mobile health delivery points can significantly reduce the number of children dying from measles and polio.

The approach is cost effective. UNICEF and WHO believe that they can reach 3.5 million children and women in the next two years for as little as US$ 15 per person per year. This cost will enable, amongst other critical child survival interventions, the delivery of measles, polio, diphtheria, tetanus and tuberculosis vaccines to children under five along with a capsule of vitamin A to boast their immunity. Women of reproductive age will receive iron supplementation and tetanus toxoid immunization.

“In the medium to long term, it is only our support to sustainable initiatives – like these child survival campaigns -- that will make a difference to the children of Somalia,” added Balslev-Olesen.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 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 interviews, please call: 
Christian Balslev-Olesen, UNICEF Representative, +254 722 514 569 or +254 733 629 933
Nuradin Dirie (for interviews in Somali and Arabic), +254 722 582 646

For more information, please contact:

Patrick McCormick, UNICEF Media New York, +2123267426, pmccormick@unicef.org
Misbah Sheikh, OIC Communication, UNICEF Somalia, +254 20 762-3958; msheikh@unicef.org




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