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Experts gather at UNICEF to review major yellow fever campaigns in Africa


NEW YORK, May 2008 – Global health experts who make up the International Coordinating Group set up to fight yellow fever are gathering at UNICEF Headquarters to discuss lessons learned from recently-completed vaccination campaigns in Togo, Mali and Senegal that immunized millions against the deadly disease.

The campaigns successfully reached more than 95 per cent of the populations targeted in each country. Togo was the first to implement the preventive campaign and targeted 4 million people in September 2007 followed by Senegal in December 2007, where over 3 million people were targeted. The vaccination campaign was completed in Mali last month and almost six million people were targeted there.

Representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), along with UNICEF, will meet from 28-29 May to discuss these campaigns and how to proceed in the 9 other African countries where the threat of yellow fever is highest. These countries are Benin, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Burkina Faso.

“We’re finally moving from outbreak response to preventing all children in the most vulnerable countries in Africa from contracting yellow fever,” said Edward Hoekstra, UNICEF’s Senior Health Advisor.

“By working together with national governments and our partners from WHO, MSF, the IFRC and others, we’ve been successful in the campaigns in these three countries but there’s more still to do, particularly with the 9 other African countries where the risk is greatest.”

Yellow fever is caused by a virus transmitted by mosquitoes. The disease is endemic in forest areas and people are at greatest risk at the end of the rainy season. According to WHO and UNICEF data, in the 12 highest risk African countries an estimated 206,000 cases and 52,000 deaths occurred in 2005. Between 2006 and 2050, yellow fever will cause an estimated 1.5 million to 2.7 million deaths in these countries.

Funding for the campaigns in Togo, Mali and Senegal was provided by the International Finance Facility for Immunization (IFFIm) through the GAVI Alliance. GAVI groups together all the major stakeholders in immunization circles and includes partners in developing countries and donor governments, WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank, NGOs and many others. The IFFIm has been designed to accelerate the availability of funds to be used for health and immunization programmes through the GAVI Alliance


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