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UN seeks to build on reconciliation efforts in Iraq

UN seeks to build on reconciliation efforts in Iraq

SRSG Ashraf Qazi
The top UN official in Iraq is to explore with the Government and a full range of political leaders the activities that the United Nations can undertake to promote national dialogue and reconciliation following recent political developments.

In a statement issued by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Ashraf Qazi welcomed the agreement and statements on reconciliation made by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and several political leaders late last month.

He also welcomed the decision by Shiite cleric Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr to suspend the activities of his Jaysh ul Mehdi movement and voiced the hope that these developments would help bring about an environment in which violence could be reduced and progress made in national dialogue and reconciliation.

Mr. Qazi noted that last month’s adoption of Security Council resolution 1770 extending and expanding UNAMI’s mandate “clearly highlights the importance of national reconciliation among Iraq’s different political and ethnic groups.”

Meanwhile, UN agencies are supporting another massive effort to deliver critical polio vaccinations to 4.8 million Iraqi children, even in the country’s remote areas. Almost 20,000 vaccinators will participate in this week’s house-to-house drive, set to last five days.

Their goal is to deliver oral polio vaccine (OPV) to children wherever they live, travelling by boat, car and on foot. Teams will also be working in every vaccination hospital and primary health care centre across the country to immunize children against the highly infectious and incurable paralytic disease that mostly affects the young.

Conflict and insecurity have regrettably made mass campaigns such as this critical to maintain immunity against infectious diseases.

But the challenges facing the campaign from conflict and insecurity are greater than ever. During the last campaign in December only half as many children were immunized in parts of Baghdad and Diyala province as against the national average of 91 per cent.

Reaching the most vulnerable and displaced children this time round is critical, said the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is supporting the campaign together with the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

“We are committed to ensure that the most vulnerable children do not miss out,” UNICEF Representative for Iraq Roger Wright stressed. “Over the next week, reaching displaced children and those areas must be given top priority.”

WHO Representative for Iraq Naeema Al-Ghasser praised the efforts of the Ministry of Health and the vaccinators to ensure that a high quality campaign goes ahead. “This is a testament to Iraq’s health workers’ determination to protect children’s health and families in most difficult conditions,” she said.

WHO and UNICEF are helping the Government with planning and management, providing transport for vaccinator teams and assisting the engagement of local communities, as well as providing OPV to re-stock Iraq’s supplies. The European Union provided $4.25 million to UNICEF and WHO to support the drive.