UNICEF and partners begin immunisation campaign for children displaced by the Lebanon conflict
BEIRUT, August 4, 2006 - A campaign to immunise tens of thousands of children displaced by the conflict in Lebanon is underway amid fears that the mass population displacement provoked by the 24-day old crisis could trigger an outbreak of measles, polio or other diseases.
The Ministry of Health – supported by UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and a variety of NGO partners – aims to ensure that children living in schools and other public places are protected against illness.
The initial focus of the campaign is some 18,000 children who are now camped in crowded and often unsanitary conditions in the Beirut area. Next week, the vaccination teams will switch their attention to the much larger number of displaced families staying in Mount Lebanon and other parts of the country.
“Immunisation is vital in a crisis like the one,” said UNICEF Lebanon Representative Roberto Laurenti. “The last thing these distressed and fearful families need is to have their children fall victim to a potentially fatal disease.”
Measles is the principal concern: children up to the age of 15 are given injectable vaccine to shield them from a disease which can be a killer in circumstances such as those Lebanon is currently experiencing.
Younger children aged five and under are receiving polio vaccine drops. Like measles, polio is a highly contagious disease which can spread rapidly when families are living in crowded conditions. Finally, drops of Vitamin A, a micronutrient that is highly beneficial to children’s overall health, are being given to children up to the age of five.
To support the campaign, UNICEF is flying a consignment of measles vaccine to Syria from its supply hub in Copenhagen, Denmark. It is planned to bring the vaccine to Beirut from Damascus by refrigerated truck. 250,000 doses of Vitamin A procured earlier by UNICEF are already stocked with the Ministry of Health.
In addition to the vaccination campaign, since the start of the crisis in Lebanon, UNICEF has provided:
• Essential drugs (including ORS & lice treatment) for children. Beneficiaries reached: 50,000
• 48 water tanks with a 5,000 liters capacity, to the Beirut, Aley and Chouf areas; Beneficiaries reached: 23,347 persons.
• 237 water kits (containing collapsible containers, purification tablets and other items) throughout Beirut, Mount Lebanon, the South, North, and Bekaa; IDPs reached: 78,000.
• 3,150 boxes of water purification tablets to Beirut and the South; IDPs reached: 63,315
• 26,396 bags/bars of soap to Beirut, Mount Lebanon, the South, North, Bekaa; IDPs reached: 100,772
• 263,608 diapers to Beirut, Mount Lebanon, the South, North, and Bekaa; IDPs reached: 88,235.
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
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- Jehane Sedky-Lavandero
- UNICEF New York
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