UNICEF and partners to immunize Iraqi children against polio and measles

UNICEF and partners to immunize Iraqi children against polio and measles

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In the shadow of ongoing international debate over a potential conflict in Iraq, health workers are expected to fan out across the country to immunize more than 4 million Iraqi youngsters against polio, the lead United Nations agency for children announced today.

In the shadow of ongoing international debate over a potential conflict in Iraq, health workers are expected to fan out across the country to immunize more than 4 million Iraqi youngsters against polio, the lead United Nations agency for children announced today.

“We are still hopeful peace will prevail,” said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “But as the Secretary-General said, the UN has a responsibility to be prepared should the worst happen.”

To reach 4 million Iraqi children during next week's polio campaign, more than 14,000 health workers will go door-to-door making sure that each child has been protected. UNICEF said the polio campaign is crucial to protecting not only Iraqi children from the disease, but also preventing polio outbreaks elsewhere in the region.

"To eliminate polio, you have to shut it down everywhere," Ms. Bellamy noted. "This is a disease that crosses borders easily, so it is essential that we complete this year's immunization and reach every child."

UNICEF is also supporting an accelerated campaign against measles, which spreads rapidly within displaced populations and kills more children than any other disease. According to the agency, there are close to half a million Iraqi children under five that have not been vaccinated against measles.

Polio immunization begins 23 February and the measles effort early in March. Both campaigns are extensions of ongoing immunization efforts in Iraq, led by the Ministry of Health and supported by UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the Red Crescent.