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UNICEF supports Child Health Days in Guinea Bissau that provide key interventions

BISSAU, 6 July 2009 – UNICEF Bissau is supporting a nation-wide vaccination campaign aimed at protecting children against killer diseases, which integrates vitamin A supplementation, de-worming and immunization against measles and other vaccine preventable diseases. In the course of the Child Health Days from 3 to 7 July, about 235,000 children under five will receive these life-saving interventions.

In Guinea Bissau, measles is the fourth highest cause of death among children under five - after malaria, diarrhoeal diseases and pneumonia. Before the introduction of the Immunization Programme, about 30 out of every 100 children who caught measles would die. That’s why an ancient proverb in the country states: “A child is not a child in times of measles” – as most children would die during the measles epidemics of the past.

Together with immunization against measles, children will be provided with vitamin A and de-worming tablets – two additional life saving interventions aiming, respectively, at raising children’s resistance against many diseases and preventing malnutrition while freeing them from parasites.

The last campaign against measles was conducted in 2006. Although measles immunization is also provided on a routine basis at Health Centres, all children need a second dose or chance to get their measles vaccination as the routine programme does not reach all children and children at 9 months do not always get protected against measles after one dose. Therefore, children born after 2006 will get vaccinated , regardless of their vaccination status. 

UNICEF is supporting this campaign in partnership with the other Measles Initiative partners, which include the World Health Organisation (WHO), the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Having provided the Ministry of Health with approximately $350,000, UNICEF is providing the main financial and operational support for the current campaign. Funds for this campaign were donated by the Italian National Committee for UNICEF, Canada’s International Development Agency (CIDA), CDC, and the United Nations Foundation.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Camilo Pereira, chaired the launching ceremony for the campaign in the presence of UNICEF and WHO Representatives, members of the Diplomatic Corps, health staff, mothers of children, religious and traditional chiefs, local and international media. The ceremony took place in the populous Antula neighbourhood, one of the most challenging neighbourhoods of Bissau in terms of vaccination coverage.

The UNICEF Representative, Silvia Luciani, called on mothers, fathers, religious and traditional chiefs and community-based media broadcasters to mobilise families in their communities, in order to reach all children and avoid preventable deaths. 

The famous Guinea Bissau singer, Dulce Neves, also participated in the event and appealed to all mothers of children under five to take them for vaccination. Her messages are being broadcast by the local radio stations.

Several joint teams from the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and WHO are in the field to monitor immunization activities and provide vaccinators with technical support.

The Measles Initiative is a partnership committed to reducing measles deaths globally. Launched in 2001, the Initiative—led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization—provides technical and financial support to governments and communities on vaccination campaigns and disease surveillance worldwide. The Initiative has supported the vaccination of more than 600 million children in more than 60 countries helping reduce measles deaths by 74 per cent globally and 89 per cent in Africa (compared to 2000). To learn more or make a donation, visit www.measlesinitiative.org.

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 more information contact:
Karyna Silva Gomes, Tel + 245 203581 / Cell + 245 6716224,
E-mail: ksgomes@unicef

Christian Moen, UNICEF Media NY, Tel + 1 212 326 7516,
E-mail: cmoen@unicef.org

Brian Hansford, UNICEF Media NY, Tel + 1 212 326–7269,
E-mail: bhansford@unicef.org




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