UNICEF applauds donor pledges to children’s health


UNICEF applauds donor pledges to children’s health

Global News 00:33
LONDON/ HONG KONG, 13 June 2011 – The generosity and commitment of the donors at today’s GAVI replenishment conference which pledged the total funding HK$33.5 billion (US$4.3 billion) will benefit the lives of millions of the poorest and most vulnerable children around the world, UNICEF said today.

The children’s agency said while 82% of the world’s children receive vaccines, one child in five, those most vulnerable to disease and living in the hardest to reach communities, lack access to these lifesaving medicines. Despite significant progress in reducing childhood mortality, nearly 2 million children still die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases.
A boy receives a measles vaccination at a temporary clinic in Lalomanu, a village on the eastern coast of Upolu, one of Samoas two main islands. The measles vaccination campaign aims to reach 32,000 children, between the ages of six months and five years, throughout the country. UNICEF is providing essential equipment for the campaign, including vaccines, Vitamin A, syringes and cold-chain equipment. The World Health Organization is providing technical and logistical support.  In October 2009 in Samoa, some 3,200 people remain displaced by a tsunami that killed over 140 people on 29 September. The tsunami was triggered by an 8.3-magnitude earthquake on the ocean floor approximately 190 kilometres from Apia, the capital. Coastal villages on Upolu, one of the countrys two main islands, and the small islet of Manono experienced extensive damage. Schools and houses were destroyed, and 10 per cent of subsistence agricultural production was lost due to damaged livestock, gardens and equipment. The destruction leaves affected communities, most of which were already impoverished, increasingly vulnerable. Of the countrys 88,000 children, an estimated 9,000 are affected by the tsunami, including 2,000 who are displaced. Many of the displaced are living in inland camps, where they face increased risk of disease outbreaks. The displacement has exacerbated existing problems with water safety; even under normal circumstances, 12 per cent of the countrys 187,000 people lack access to an improved water source. UNICEF is responding by providing safe drinking water, rehydration salts, soap, hygiene kits, vaccines and other essential supplies to the displaced.
“The outcome of this pledging conference is exciting and tremendous news which will save millions of lives of the most threatened children around the world,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “And UNICEF renews its pledge to redouble our own efforts to help governments and other partners deliver vaccines to the hardest to reach children.”

UNICEF, a founding member of GAVI and also the leading vaccine procurement agency in the world, supplies nearly 60% of the world’s children with vaccines from its supply division based in Copenhagen. In 2010, UNICEF purchased on behalf of GAVI and developing countries, around 2.53 billion doses of traditional and new vaccines worth HK$5.85 billion (US$750 million).

UNICEF’s procurement work is guided by an over-arching vaccine security strategy that entails working with multiple, WHO-prequalified suppliers to discourage monopolies; accurately forecasting global vaccine needs in order to negotiate favourable prices and ensure an adequate supply of vaccines; and securing the safe and timely delivery of the vaccines to countries.
Supervising Nurse Sylvain Kassongo places a delivery of vaccines in a refrigerator, in the UNICEF-assisted health centre in the town of Kipushi, in Katanga Province. [#4 IN SEQUENCE OF SIX]  In February 2011 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, women and children remain vulnerable to maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT), an infection that has no cure but is preventable with routine immunization. MNT threatens the lives of 130 million women and babies in 38 countries around the world, including D. R. Congo, where the disease sickened at least 1,038 babies and killed 483 last year. Globally, the disease kills 59,000 infants within their first month of life, the equivalent of one death every nine minutes, every year. Limited access to basic health services and poor hygiene conditions during birth are the major contributors to MNT mortality: Many infections take place when women give birth at home, alone or in the presence of an untrained birth attendant. Delivery on unclean surfaces and handling with unclean hands or instruments increase the chance of MNT infection in both mother and baby. Yet three doses of the tetanus toxoid vaccine  one of the worlds safest and least expensive vaccines  protects almost 100 per cent of recipients from the disease. Additionally, children born to immunized women are protected from the disease for the first two months of life. Since UNICEF re-launched its MNT Elimination Initiative in 1999, at least 20 countries have achieved the goal of eliminating MNT, and since 2006, private-sector partner Pampers has donated funds for 300 million vaccines. In D. R. Congo, this initiative is promoting vaccination among girls and women of child-bearing age, particularly in southern provinces where health infrastructure is weak and vaccine shortages are common. The goal of the initiative is to eliminate cases of MNT from the world by 2015.

Beyond procurement, UNICEF works with governments to help deliver vaccines to communities via a “cold chain” (left) , train vaccinators, and ensure that care-givers understand the importance of immunization and how to access it.

The GAVI Alliance, UNICEF and partners aim to save an additional 4 million children’s lives by 2015 by increasing access to new and traditional vaccines.“GAVI’s success is our success and the success of everyone working in this common cause,” said Anthony Lake.