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Nepal earthquake: Emergency measles immunization campaign for hundreds of thousands of children at risk—UNICEF

2015-05-04

Photos and children’s stories from the measles vaccination drive in the Kathmandu Valley are available here http://uni.cf/1I24Gvs ,with additional photos and videos here: http://uni.cf/1HH6SbO

A photo essay of a 4 year old girl who was vaccinated after her house in Lalitpur was destroyed is available for download here: http://uni.cf/1EMeQPP

KATHMANDU, May 4, 2015 – More than half a million children are being targeted in an emergency vaccination drive in Nepal – as fears grow of measles outbreaks in the informal camps that have sprung up since the earthquake on April 25.

The campaign was launched by the Nepalese Ministry of Health and Population, with support from UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Lack of shelter and sanitation are huge risk factors for disease—as the number of people who have fled their homes continues to grow, with many people now living next to their damaged houses.

According to figures available before the earthquake struck, around one in 10 children in Nepal is not vaccinated against measles. 

“Measles is very contagious, and can potentially be deadly, and we fear it could spread very quickly in the often crowded conditions in the improvised camps where many children are living,” says UNICEF’s Representative in Nepal, Tomoo Hozumi. “We have been working for decades to eliminate measles in Nepal. Unless we act now, there is a real risk of it re-emerging as a major threat for children – a setback for all of our collective efforts.”

"We know immunizations save the lives of up to three million children every year—and in the aftermath of Nepal's devastating earthquake we must ensure the 1.7 million children in need of humanitarian assistance are also reached with life-saving vaccines," said David Morley, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada. "The generous and rapid response of Canadians to this emergency is allowing UNICEF to continue to reach Nepal's most vulnerable children to prevent a measles outbreak." 

In the first wave of the emergency response, teams are working to immunize children under the age of five in informal settlements in the three densely populated districts in Kathmandu Valley – Bhaktapur, Kathmandu and Lalitpur. The drive will continue in the coming weeks in the 12 districts worst-hit by the earthquake.

“We are working with partners to take urgent practical steps to mobilize tens of thousands of vaccines, as well as the cold chain facilities needed to store them at the right temperature and keep them effective,” says Tomoo Hozumi. “We are doing everything possible to minimize the danger for children who have already been through so much.”

Around 1.7 million children remain in urgent need of humanitarian aid in the worst-hit areas of Nepal.

In addition to providing vaccinations to cut the risk of disease, UNICEF is prioritizing access to clean water and sanitation for children across the worst-affected areas of the country.

Latest interventions include:

  • UNICEF has reached almost 90,000 people in Kavrepalanchok, Lalitpur and Kathmandu with sufficient water to drink, cook and wash.
  • Almost 80,000 people in seven severely affected districts (Gorkha, Dhading, Dolakha, Sindhupalchok, Kavrepalanchok, Lalitpur and Kathmandu) have been reached with hygiene education and materials.
  • Supplies that arrived in Kathmandu by air, including health kits, blankets and tents, are on their way to children in more remote and hard-to-reach areas.

UNICEF has launched a US$50 million appeal to support its humanitarian response to the earthquake in Nepal over the next three months, as part of a wider inter-agency flash appeal.

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To donate, please go to unicef.ca or call 1-877-955-3111. All donations made to UNICEF Canada between April 25 and May 25, 2015 will be matched by the Canadian government.

Additional photos and video can be downloaded here:  http://uni.cf/1HH6SbO

About UNICEF:

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.