Thirty years ago, only one out of five children were immunized against killer diseases like measles and polio. Throughout the developing world, millions of children were dying of illnesses that had all but disappeared in the world’s wealthier countries. Since then, a near miracle has taken place. Now, four out of five children are protected by vaccines. Polio is on the verge of elimination. Measles and tetanus deaths have been reduced dramatically. This miracle did not happen by itself.
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Lacey Stone traveled to the Philippines to witness the tremendous efforts that UNICEF is undertaking to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) in the country of more than 7,000 islands. Through a partnership with Kiwanis International, UNICEF, along with government and health partners, is reaching the poorest, most neglected women in the Philippines with lifesaving health care.
This week is the first ever World Immunization Week—an international event created to raise awareness about the importance of immunization. Besides the protection that immunization gives against childhood and maternal illnesses, it is also important to vaccinate during an emergency: like a war, a natural disaster, or a refugee crisis.
UNICEF is the world’s largest buyer of vaccines for the world’s poorest countries. In 2010, UNICEF supplied 2.5 billion doses of vaccines to 99 countries, and reached 58% of the world’s children. But still, an estimated 1.7 million children died from vaccine-preventable diseases in 2008 before reaching their fifth birthday.
In more than 30 countries maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) remains a risk. U.S. Fund for UNICEF staff and a team from Kiwanis International will travel to the Philippines to witness firsthand UNICEF programs to eliminate MNT there.
Any mother should have the choice to immunize her child whether she lives in Manhattan or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. UNICEF is the world’s largest buyer of vaccines, distributing more than 3 billion doses annually and reaching 56 percent of the world’s children, but it’s not enough. UNICEF in partnership with the WHO, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and others aim to make full immunization a part of every child’s life.