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COVID-19: UNICEF, WHO raise alarm of impending measles, polio epidemics

By Hassan Zaggi

Following the disruption of immunization activities by the COVID-19, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) have called for what it described as “urgent action to avert measles and polio epidemics.”

In a statement in Abuja, Wednesday, the two organisations lamented that the effect of Corona virus, has left millions of vulnerable children worldwide at heightened risk of preventable childhood diseases.

The statement quoted the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as saying: “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.”

On her part, UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, said that: “We cannot allow the fight against one deadly disease to cause us to lose ground in the fight against other diseases.

“Addressing the 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.”

Commenting, the WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Walter Kazadi Mulombo, said: “We must continue to engage traditional and religious institutions, as well as other key stakeholders at the community level, to stay vigilant and keep up vaccination rates to avert a resurgence of the wild poliovirus – and to address the continued threat of the vaccine-derived polio and other vaccine preventable disease outbreaks, including measles.”

WHO and UNICEF estimate that US$655 million (US$400 million for polio and US$255 million for measles) are needed to address dangerous immunity gaps in non-Gavi eligible countries and target age groups.

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