UNICEF Executive Director calls for accelerated efforts to make polio history

The Independent Monitoring Board on progress with global polio eradication reports the significant finding that 2.7 million children in six countries have never been reached with a single polio vaccine. Many of the unreached children live in volatile areas of conflict such as northern Nigeria and the Northwest region of Pakistan. Vaccinators and social mobilizers have limited access to these regions. “This is a clarion call to accelerate all efforts to reach these unreached children,” said Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF.

NEW YORK (June 21, 2012) — "The Independent Monitoring Board on progress with global polio eradication reports the significant finding that 2.7 million children in six countries have never been reached with a single polio vaccine. This is a clarion call to accelerate all efforts to reach these unreached children," said Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF.

"Not only have these millions of children never had a polio vaccine but many of these 'never' children have not been reached by the lifesaving benefits of routine immunization. The report calls on all of us to help find and vaccinate these children, make every encounter with these children count and make history by wiping out this crippling disease."

"As many of these 'never' children live in volatile areas of conflict such as eastern parts of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Borno in northern Nigeria, the Northwest region of Pakistan, humanitarian space must always be protected and preserved so that the heroes of the polio campaigns—the volunteers, the vaccinators and the social mobilizers—can have full access to children. This is especially the case in a global campaign like the fight against polio."

"The polio campaign is dangerously under-funded. But we are on the verge of victory. Not only can we make history by succeeding in eradicating polio but we will be condemned by history if we fail."

"UNICEF is committed, with partners, to implementing the recommendations outlined in the report such as using polio vaccination campaigns for integrated public health campaigns around good sanitation and nutrition, scaling up use of social mobilization activities so communities take ownership of the health campaigns and finding innovative ways of reaching missed children."

About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world. Working in more than 150 countries, UNICEF provides children with health care, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency relief, and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States.

UNICEF is at the forefront of efforts to reduce child mortality worldwide. There has been substantial progress: the annual number of under-five deaths dropped from more than 12 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010. But still, 21,000 children die each day from preventable causes. Our mission is to do whatever it takes to make that number zero by giving children the essentials for a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.

For additional information, please contact:
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, smasur@unicefusa.org
Kiní Schoop, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.922.2634, kschoop@unicefusa.org