UNICEF Pledges Immunization, Basic Health Care Support to Worst Affected Countries

Addis Ababa,  The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) is committed to supporting basic health care and immunization needs in the worst affected countries, and to doing so in a way that limits the risk of COVID-19 transmission, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said. 

In her statement, Henrietta Fore said the COVID-19 pandemic is overstretching health services around the world as health workers are diverted to support the response.

Flight cancellations and trade restrictions by countries have severely constrained access to essential medicines, including vaccines, the executive director noted.

As the pandemic progresses, critical life-saving services, including immunization, will likely be disrupted, especially in Africa, Asia and the Middle East where they are sorely needed.

In all these, children from the poorest families in countries affected by conflicts and natural disasters are at the greatest risk.

Therefore, Fore said, “We are particularly concerned about countries such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, the Philippines, Syria and South Sudan that are battling measles, cholera or polio outbreaks while responding to COVID-19 cases.”

At a time like this, these countries can ill-afford to face additional outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, she stressed.

UNICEF is therefore providing greater support to governments to continue the supply of vaccines during this pandemic.

According to her,  governments may have to temporarily postpone preventive mass vaccination campaigns in many places in the days to come in order to ensure that the delivery of immunization services does not contribute to COVID-19 spread, and to follow recommendations on physical distancing.

UNICEF strongly recommends that all governments begin rigorous planning now to intensify immunization activities once the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.

She underscored that “immunization remains a life-saving health intervention. As the world’s biggest buyer and supplier of vaccines, UNICEF will continue to play a pivotal role in supporting governments’ current and future immunization efforts.

Source: Ethiopia News agency