29 April 2010 An estimated 60,000 Haitian children under the age of five will receive life-saving vaccinations in a major immunization campaign that kicks off in the Caribbean country on Saturday, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced today.
Routine immunization of children in Haiti was severely disrupted by the massive earthquake that struck on 12 January.
Health facilities were damaged or destroyed, and interruptions to fuel and electricity had a major impact on health services, including the refrigeration system that supports storage and distribution of vaccines, according to UNICEF. Vaccination rates in Haiti were as low as 53 per cent even before the quake, the agency said.
Children will receive vaccinations against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), measles, and rubella during the drive, which will be led by the Haitian health ministry with the support of UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO).
The campaign will supplement an ongoing programme that began in February and has already reached more than 220,000 children under the age of eight in 687 locations in camps for people displaced by the earthquake.
Vitamin A supplements and de-worming treatment will also be provided at fixed vaccination centres and through outreach teams travelling to the most hard-to-reach communities.
A total of 146 groups of vaccinators will work on the campaign, which is part of the Vaccination Week of the Americas – an annual initiative covering 44 countries and territories in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Similar campaigns got under way in Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean region last Saturday.
“Vaccination is the most cost-effective life-saver for children – but the human cost of not vaccinating a child is immeasurable,” said UNICEF Representative in Haiti Françoise Gruloos-Ackermans. “The concurrent vaccination efforts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic also emphasize the collaborative spirit embodied by the Vaccination Week of the Americas,” she added.
UNICEF is providing vaccines, syringes and other equipment with financial assistance also provided by the agency and WHO.
Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced the appointment of Nigel Fisher as his interim Deputy Special Representative for the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), focusing on humanitarian affairs. The Canadian, who succeeds Kim Bolduc, will also serve as interim UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and as head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) within the country.
Mr. Ban also appointed Kevin Kennedy, a United States and Irish national, as another Deputy Special Representative for MINUSTAH. Mr. Kennedy will serve as deputy to Special Representative Edmond Mulet. He succeeds Luiz Carlos da Costa, who was killed in the quake.
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