UN: UNICEF says un-immunized children live in conflict-affected countries

New York, US (PANA) - Almost two thirds of children who have not been immunized
with basic vaccines live in countries that are either partially or entirely affected by
conflict, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday.

A UNICEF statement, ahead of World Immunization Week, said: "Of countries in
conflict, South Sudan has the highest percentage of  un-immunized children, with
61 per cent not receiving the most basic childhood vaccines, followed by Somalia
(58 per cent) and Syria (57 per cent).

UNICEF Chief of Immunization Robin Nandy, stated: "Conflict creates an ideal
environment for disease outbreaks, and children miss out on basic immunizations
because of the breakdown and sometimes deliberate destruction of vital health
services.

"Even when medical services are available, insecurity in the area often prevents
them from reaching children."

According to UNICEF, the major causes of childhood illness and death include
measles, diarrhoea, respiratory infections and malnutrition, which can worsen in
conflict and emergencies.

It said: "When children contract measles in non-conflict settings, less than one
per cent of them die. In areas where crowding and malnutrition are rife, such as
refugee camps, child deaths from measles can increase to up to 30 per cent of
cases.

"Overcrowding and lack of basic necessities like food, water and shelter make
children even more vulnerable to disease."

It said that children in areas in conflict also see the killing of health workers
and the destruction of medical facilities, supplies and equipment, all of which
have a disastrous effect on their health.

UNICEF said conflict-affected areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan are the
last remaining strongholds of polio-virus, which has otherwise been eliminated
from the rest of the world.

"In Syria, immunization levels have decreased from more than 80 per cent in
2010, prior to the conflict, to 43 per cent in 2014. Polio resurfaced in the
country in 2013, after 14 years with no cases.

"In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 2,000 suspected cases
of measles have already been reported in 2016, with 17 deaths, most of them
among children under five years old," it stated.

Vaccination particularly against highly contagious measles is a
high priority in humanitarian emergencies and is a central part of its response
to protect children’s health in such settings.

In emergencies and conflicts, UNICEF works with partners to restart
the cold chain for vaccines and other essential medical supplies; put health
teams back in place; and train health workers to provide immunization,
nutrition screening, vitamin A supplements and medical treatment for women
and children.

Immunization in conflict helps to revive other badly needed health services.

"Children affected by conflict are pushed into a downward spiral of deprivation
that robs them of their health and, by extension, their futures," said the agency.
"Vaccination can help to break this vicious cycle, and immunization is a vital
service that deserves and requires protection from all parties to a conflict."

World Immunization Week is marked annually at the end of April to promote
the use of life-saving vaccines for all children particularly those who are
consistently excluded.

The event is observed by UNICEF, immunization partners, governments and
civil society organizations around the world. World Immunization Week 2016
runs from 24 to 30 April.
-0-   PANA   AA/AR  22April2016

22 avril 2016 18:15:14




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