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[casi] VERY IMPORTANT - UNICEF Highlights - Details Vulnerability in Press Release



UNICEF just released a press note regarding UNICEF's polio and measles
vaccinations for Iraqi children.  The release (and perhaps even the
vaccination initiative itself) may be a UNICEF mechanism to warn about Iraqi
children's extreme vulnerability (aside from polio and measles), against a
backdrop of a potential war.  It includes some useful quotes from UNICEF
Executive Director Carol Bellamy.

Below are key quotes, excerpts and the complete text.

Source: UNICEF, press release, "UNICEF and Partners Push Ahead With Polio
and Measles Campaigns for Iraqi Children", 18 February 2003,
http://www.unicef.org/newsline/2003/03pr10iraq.htm

Context: "[T]he shadow of ongoing international debate over a potential
conflict in Iraq".

Quotes, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy:

"The situation of Iraqi children has been very difficult for more than 15
years".

"No matter what the global situation, we cannot shrink from the ongoing work
of reaching out to help them. Amidst many distractions, we must all keep the
children of Iraq uppermost in our minds and do everything we can to protect
them."

"There's just no question that Iraqi children are extremely vulnerable".
"Whatever comes, their health and well-being must continue to be a
priority."

[Iraq is] "a country that has been devastated by two major wars and 12 years
of sanctions."

Children's Extreme Vulnerability:

[begin]

Bellamy pointed out that one out of eight Iraqi children dies before the age
of five - one of the worst rates in the world. She also noted that:

 One-third of Iraqi children are malnourished
 One-quarter are born underweight
 One quarter of school-age children do not go to school
 One-quarter do not have access to safe water

[end]

Full Text:

[begin]

GENEVA / NEW YORK, 18 February 2003 - In the shadow of ongoing international
debate over a potential conflict in Iraq, health workers are expected to fan
out across the country from 23-27 February to immunize more than 4 million
Iraqi children against polio, UNICEF announced today.

UNICEF is also supporting an accelerated campaign against measles, which
spreads rapidly within displaced populations and kills more children than
any other disease.

Both campaigns are extensions of ongoing immunization efforts in Iraq, led
by the Ministry of Health and supported by UNICEF, the World Health
Organization, and the Red Crescent.

"The situation of Iraqi children has been very difficult for more than 15
years," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. "No matter what
the global situation, we cannot shrink from the ongoing work of reaching out
to help them. Amidst many distractions, we must all keep the children of
Iraq uppermost in our minds and do everything we can to protect them."

Bellamy pointed out that one out of eight Iraqi children dies before the age
of five - one of the worst rates in the world. She also noted that:

 One-third of Iraqi children are malnourished
 One-quarter are born underweight
 One quarter of school-age children do not go to school
 One-quarter do not have access to safe water

"There's just no question that Iraqi children are extremely vulnerable,"
Bellamy said. "Whatever comes, their health and well-being must continue to
be a priority."

UNICEF said the polio campaign is crucial to protecting not only Iraqi
children from the disease but also to preventing polio outbreaks elsewhere
in the region.

"To eliminate polio, you have to shut it down everywhere," Bellamy noted.
"This is a disease that crosses borders easily, so it is essential that we
complete this year's immunization and reach every child." Although Iraq
suffered a major outbreak of polio in 1999, increased assistance from UNICEF
and WHO has led to zero cases since January 2000.

To reach 4 million Iraqi children during next week's polio campaign, more
than 14,000 health workers will go door-to-door making sure that each child
has been protected. Bellamy said that the Ministry of Health deserves credit
for pushing ahead with the campaigns under difficult circumstances. She
noted that the campaigns would not be possible without the shared commitment
of the ministry, WHO, and the Red Crescent.

"For many people, this campaign is an act of hope and faith in the future,"
Bellamy declared. "And it's a major achievement for a country that has been
devastated by two major wars and 12 years of sanctions."

Urgent Measles Campaign

Noting that time had become a rather unpredictable commodity, Bellamy said
UNICEF and its partners are also pushing forward with an expanded campaign
against measles.

With the help of health workers and volunteers, routine measles immunization
for children under five has been intensified, she said. Among other things,
UNICEF is supporting door-to-door efforts to track down and vaccinate
children who missed the measles vaccination in earlier efforts.

According to UNICEF, there are close to half a million Iraqi children under
five that have not been vaccinated against measles.

"Finding these children is an important undertaking," said Carel de Rooy,
UNICEF's Representative in Iraq, noting that measles spreads rapidly when
children are displaced from home and living in makeshift quarters. "We have
volunteers poring over vaccination records and going door-to-door to locate
them and make sure they are immunized."

Once children under five have been vaccinated, UNICEF will turn its
attention to older children between the ages of six and 12, many of whom
were not vaccinated against measles in the mid 1990s when vaccines were in
short supply. Children who missed being vaccinated when they were younger
could easily infect children in the more susceptible under-five age group.

UNICEF is shipping in half a million doses of measles vaccine to supplement
government stocks for the campaign. UNICEF has also provided funds for
health workers, supervisors, and independent monitors, and is covering the
costs of transport and community mobilization for both polio and measles
campaigns.

"We are still hopeful that peace will prevail," Bellamy said. "But as the
Secretary-General has said, the UN has a responsibility to be prepared
should the worst happen."

UNICEF has pre-positioned hundreds of tonnes of relief supplies in the Iraq
region, including medicines, nutritional supplements for children, water
equipment and other items - part of a broader effort by the UN family to be
ready for humanitarian contingencies.

UNICEF has provided direct support to Iraqi children since 1953. It opened a
permanent field operation in Iraq in the early 1980s and has been present
ever since. UNICEF has nearly 300 staff in Iraq and supports efforts to
ensure that Iraqi children are immunized, well-nourished, and have access to
safe water and decent sanitation, as well as a quality basic education.


For further information please contact us:Geoffrey Keele, UNICEF Iraq:
gkeele@unicef.org (+964-1) 719-2318** Anis Salem, UNICEF Amman:
asalem@unicef.org (+962-6) 553-9977 **Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Geneva:
wbelmonte@unicef.org, (+41-79) 909-5509** Alfred Ironside, UNICEF New York,
aironside@unicef.org (+1-212) 326-7261

[end]

Nathaniel Hurd
NGO Consultant on United Nations Iraq policy
Tel. (Mobile): 917-407-3389
Fax: 718-504-4224
Residential/Mailing Address:
90 7th Ave.
Apt. #6
Brooklyn, NY  11217

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