20 April 2007In one of the biggest humanitarian operations in Iraq in the last two years, a wave of 8,000 vaccinators will canvass the country starting this Sunday to prevent a possible outbreak of measles among Iraqi children, including the many who have not received their routine immunization as a result of violence, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today. In one of the biggest humanitarian operations in Iraq in the last two years, a wave of 8,000 vaccinators will canvass the country starting this Sunday to prevent a possible outbreak of measles among Iraqi children, including the many who have not received their routine immunization as a result of violence, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today.“One million Iraqi children now have no protection against measles, as a result of insecurity and falling immunization rates,” said UNICEF Special Representative for Iraq Roger Wright. “This vaccine will certainly save many young lives and we are calling on everyone in Iraq to ensure vaccinators reach children safely over the next two weeks.”The ambitious immunization drive will last for two weeks and aim to bring the measles, mumps & rubella (MMR) combined vaccine to as many of the 3.9 million Iraqi child aged between one and five years old as possible, the agency said in a news release issued in Amman, the Jordanian capital.Although measles can be deadly to children, preventing it is easy through immunization. With support from UNICEF and the UN World Health Organization (WHO), Iraq’s Ministry of Health is organizing the MMR campaign as part of a long-term plan to eliminate measles. “Insecurity in Iraq has increased the risk of a widespread measles epidemic that could claim the lives of up to 10 per cent of infected children,” said Naeema Al-Ghasser, WHO Representative for Iraq, adding that all young children in the country must be immunized, even if they have had the vaccine before.For the campaign, WHO helped to train the vaccinators and provided critical technical advice, while UNICEF contracted over 2,000 vehicles to transport the vaccinators, provided safety boxes to dispose of syringes, and engaged the support of Iraq’s community leaders.Against the backdrop of heavy fighting in parts of Iraq, the agency has raised concern about secure access to children stranded in the most violent parts of Baghdad, Diyala and Anbar, as well as children who have been displaced because of insecurity. They said special plans are being made to deliver the vaccine to these populations, where the risk from measles is also highest. Dr. Al-Ghasser praised the dedication and courage of all involved in the campaign. “The unflagging determination of Iraq’s health workers and many local volunteers to deliver this important vaccine is both admirable and heartening.”UNICEF said earlier this week that it urgently needs an initial $20 million to provide humanitarian aid for Iraq’s children, of which only 11 per cent has been received to date.