Iraq

Iraqi Red Crescent volunteers continue polio campaign

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The Iraq crisis has not prevented more than 560 Red Crescent volunteers taking part in the latest polio eradication efforts in the country, the first of four such vaccination rounds this year. Some 4 million children were vaccinated against this preventable disease during the five-day nationwide operation, also involving the Iraqi Health Ministry and UN agencies. "Red Crescent volunteers provide essential support, since they monitor the effectiveness of the immunization campaign," said Sten Swedlund, head of the Federation's delegation in Baghdad. Although 90 per cent of monitored children are already vaccinated, the volunteers can reach remote villages not yet touched by the vaccination campaigns, going door-to-door to determine whether all children under the age of five have received the two drops of oral vaccine. Efforts to eradicate poliomyelitis in Iraq were stepped up in 2000 after 77 cases were reported in 1999. The country is expected to reach the goal of complete eradication in 2004. "Given the expected humanitarian crisis should a war happen, it is of vital importance that all Iraqi children have adequate protection against these diseases," Swedlund noted.