Musician Rostropovich launches immunization drive in Azerbaijan with UN help

Musician Rostropovich launches immunization drive in Azerbaijan with UN help

World-renowned cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich this Friday will kick off a nationwide United Nations-sponsored campaign to immunize more than three million Azerbaijanis against measles and rubella.

In an effort to wipe out these diseases, the two-week World Health Organization (WHO) campaign will zero in on children and adults from 7 to 20 years of age in all 50 districts of the country, the WHO Regional Office for Europe announced. The programme also will aim to reach people living in remote rural communities in this Southwest Asian nation that borders the Caspian Sea.

Measles is one of the most widespread vaccine-preventable diseases in Azerbaijan and this country of nearly 8 million people has recorded 10,000 cases of measles over the last three years, one of the highest incidence rates among the 52 Member States of the WHO European Region.

The program will be carried out by WHO with the support of the Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mr. Rostropovich left the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan as a small child and is enmeshed in health promotion campaigns in his native country. The foundation that the 78-year-old musician created with his wife, opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya, has already generated $1 million for immunization programs in Azerbaijan. More than 700,000 children are immunized each year with the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine through the Foundation’s programme.

The WHO European Region, in which 10.3 million babies are born each year, aims to eliminate measles and rubella by 2010.