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News note

Iraq and Syria spearhead regional immunization week

Twenty-two countries and territories ramping up immunization efforts and delivering life-saving vaccines

GENEVA, 27 April 2010 – Iraq and the Syrian Arabic Republic this week launched their national immunization weeks, part of a region-wide push to raise vaccination rates. The week will be Iraq’s first, while this year marks Syria’s eighth.

“Immunization weeks signal a commitment that governments are placing the health of children at the top of their priorities,” said Jos Vandelaer, UNICEF’s Chief of Immunization, from New York. “Vaccines are an essential tool in the fight to prevent the needless deaths of children.”

Iraq and Syria are just two out of twenty-two countries and territories that are focusing efforts this week on raising awareness about the importance of immunizing children under the age of five, a key component of immunization weeks.

Events in Iraq kicked off on 24 April, and will run through 30 April. Departments of Health at all 18 Iraqi governorates are being joined by hundreds of communities to carry out a variety of awareness and health education activities, especially in low coverage areas. Activities are designed to remind parents, caregivers and health care providers of the benefits and importance of routine childhood vaccination and will include media events, workshops, training sessions, social mobilization initiatives, round table discussions and exhibitions addressing a wide range of vaccine-related issues.

In Syria, events started on Sunday 25 April and run through Thursday 29 April across all Syrian governorates, and are being coordinated by the Ministry of Health. Health centers and mobile health units will administer vaccines to children under five against polio, measles, tetanus and rubella. In addition the Ministry of Health is seeking to administer tetanus vaccinations to all women between the ages of 15 – 49 who have yet to receive immunizations.

The World Health Organization, in coordination with UNICEF, has been working on organizing immunization weeks across several regions. The recent launches in Iraq and Syria are part of the first-ever immunization week in WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean region, which includes 22 countries and territories, all of which participated. The immunization week in the Eastern Mediterranean joins the already established immunization weeks organized by WHO’s regional offices in Europe and the Americas, together with UNICEF and other partners.

Other countries and territories participating in the Eastern Mediterranean immunization week are: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon,  Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, occupied Palestinian territory, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

UNICEF works 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, safe 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 further information please contact

Ban Dhayi, UNICEF Iraq, jmurthy@unicef.org, Tel. +962 6 5515921 Ext. 655
Razan Rashidi, UNICEF Syria, rrashidi@unicef.org, Tel. +963 11 61 22 594
Christiane Berthiaume, UNICEF Geneva, cberthiaume@unicef.org, Tel. +44 22 909 5716
Christian Moen, UNICEF New York, cmoen@unicef.org, Tel. +212 326 7516
Hayatee Hassan, WHO Geneva, hasanh@who.int, Tel. +41 22 791 2103




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