WHO, UNICEF Want Emergency Action to Avert Measles and Polio Epidemics

The World Health Organisation (WHO), a UN specialized agency responsible for international public health, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have called for urgent actions to protect the most vulnerable children from deadly measles and polio epidemics as COVID-19 disrupts immunizations.

The UN agencies in a statement posted on the WHO website noted that millions of vulnerable children are at heightened risk of contracting preventable childhood diseases occasioned by the continued disruption of immunization services worldwide.

“The two organizations estimate that 655 million dollars (400 million dollars for polio and 255 million dollars for measles) are needed to address dangerous immunity gaps in non-Gavi eligible countries and target age groups,” the statement read.

Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General was quoted in the statement to have said, “COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on health services and in particular immunization services worldwide.

“But unlike with COVID, we have the tools and knowledge to stop diseases such as polio and measles.

“What we need are the resources and commitments to put these tools and knowledge into action. If we do that, children’s lives will be saved.’’

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Similarly, the statement quoted Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director as saying “we cannot allow the fight against one deadly disease to cause us to lose ground in the fight against other diseases.

“Addressing global COVID-19 pandemic is critical. However, other deadly diseases also threaten the lives of millions of children in some of the poorest areas of the world.

“That is why today we are urgently calling for global action from country leaders, donors, and partners.

“We need additional financial resources to safely resume vaccination campaigns and prioritize immunization systems that are critical to protect children and avert other epidemics besides COVID-19.”

There has been a recent global resurgence of measles one of the world’s most contagious diseases with vaccination coverage gaps further exacerbated this year by COVID-19, and threatening the huge gains made in fighting the virus in recent years.

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