Save the Children welcomes the Australian Government’s commitment to immunisation

Save the Children welcomes this week’s announcement by the Australian government to invest $100 million in funding for immunisation programmes overseas, including the drive to eradicate polio, a crippling disease that can lead to paralysis.

While polio has been eradicated from nearly all the countries in the world it is still prevalent in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Save the Children’s Dr Kate Worsley said, “Routine immunisation is critical to the healthy development of children across the globe. There is no reason for vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio to continue to cause unnecessary loss of life and permanent disability. We have the medicines and know-how to respond, and welcome the news of this $100 million commitment by the Australian Government.”

In 2012, an estimated 22.6 million infants worldwide were not reached with routine immunisation services, of whom more than half live in three countries: India, Indonesia and Nigeria. Particular efforts are needed to reach the underserved, especially those in remote areas, in deprived urban settings, in fragile states and strife-torn regions.

Alarmingly polio has been detected in Syria, a nation at war since 2011 where many people are now forced to consume contaminated water and food – the easiest and fastest way to transmit the polio disease. According to Save the Children, the incidence of polio in Syria is exacerbated by a collapse in the nation’s health system, as reported in its March 2014 report, “A Devastating Toll: The impact of three years of war on the health of Syria’s children”.

“The re-emergence of polio in Syria has had devastating impacts on children’s health, and now threatens to impact on neighbouring countries. While the international response to polio in Syria has been rapid, it also shows how quickly interrupted access to critical childhood immunisations sets us back on advances in health care and puts children’s lives at risk. International efforts focussed towards ensuring health systems are resilient to times of crisis, and supported both during and after a crisis, are essential in these difficult contexts,” added Dr Worsley.

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