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How conflicts, poverty drive hunger, vaccine preventable diseases, by UN reports

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Image represnting hunger. Photo/Owen Barder

Two reports released yesterday by the United Nations (UN) have shown how conflicts and poverty are driving hunger and vaccine-preventable diseases globally.

The first report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), indicate that no fewer than 20 million children worldwide or over one in 10, missed out on lifesaving vaccines for measles, diphtheria, and tetanus in 2018.

It noted that most unvaccinated children live in the poorest countries and are disproportionately in fragile or conflict-prone states and if these children do get sick, they are at risk of the severest health consequences and least likely to access lifesaving treatment and care.

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The UN report also showed that almost half were in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

WHO and UNICEF explained that globally, since 2010, vaccination coverage with three doses of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP3) and one dose of the measles vaccine has stalled at around 86 percent.

Confirming that although this was high, it was insufficient, stressing that 95 percent coverage was required globally, across countries, and communities to protect against outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Vaccines are one of our most important tools for preventing outbreaks and keeping the world safe. While most children today are being vaccinated, far too many are left behind.

“Unacceptably, it is often those who are most at risk– the poorest, the most marginalized, those touched by conflict or forced from their homes – who are persistently missed.”

UNICEF’s Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, said: “Measles is a real-time indicator of where we have more work to do to fight preventable diseases. Because measles is so contagious, an outbreak points to communities that are missing out on vaccines due to access, costs or, in some places, complacency. We have to exhaust every effort to immunise every child.”

The second report revealed that an estimated 820 million people lacked adequate food in 2018, up from 811 million in the previous year, representing the third year of increase.

According to a new edition of the annual The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report released yesterday, this underscores the immense challenge of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of Zero Hunger by 2030.

“Progress in halving the number of stunted children and reducing the number of babies born with low birth weight is too slow, which also puts the SDG 2 nutrition targets further out of reach,” the report stated.


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