UN steps up emergency immunizations

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: The United Nations and its partners are aiming to vaccinate an additional 500,000 Haitian children during a second round of emergency immunizations.

The immunizations will consist of diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, rubella and polio, said Marco Jimenez of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

More than 275,000 children have been immunized so far against major vaccine preventable diseases, according to UNICEF, which noted that there are few places in the world today where children are as vulnerable as they are in Haiti.

The country is still recovering from an earthquake on January 12, 2010, which killed more than 200,000 people and caused severe destruction and damage in Port-au-Prince and other areas.

Despite some progress, UNICEF said over 1.2 million children in the country are exposed to exploitation and abuse, and 800,000 live in tents at sites which lack adequate sanitation and where access to safe water, education and health facilities are limited.

Six months after the tragedy, safe water is being provided to some 1.2 million people through UNICEF and its partner organizations. In addition, nutrition programs are providing food to some 550,000 people with special needs – children under five and lactating women – and some 2,000 children with severe acute malnutrition are now receiving life-saving therapeutic feeding and care.

“Some of the milestones at six months are truly remarkable. So far, no increase in malnutrition has been recorded and we have also not seen any major disease outbreaks despite huge challenges in health and sanitation,” UNICEF wrote in a report released last month.

Jimenez said that 63,000 children are also benefiting from the network of 225 UNICEF-supported Child-Friendly Spaces, which are designed to offer children and adolescents a safe space to participate in recreational activities and where they can receive more targeted psycho-social support.

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