U.N. and partners roll out immunization campaign in Philippines

The United Nations Children's Fund, the World Health Organization, The Philippine Department of Health and partners announced on Nov. 27 the rollout of a national vaccination program to vaccinate more than 30,000 children.

The immunization campaign targets more than 30,000 children under five-years-old against polio and measles from Tacloban, the city hit hardest by Typhoon Haiyan three weeks ago. Under the vaccination campaign, children receive both immunizations and vitamin A drops to boost their immune systems.

"Disease is a silent predator, but we know how to prevent it and we will do everything that we can," UNICEF Coordinator for the Emergency Response in Tacloban Angela Kearney said.

WHO Representative in the Philippines Dr. Julie Hall said the rapid response to prevent a potential polio or measles outbreak is impressive.

"It is virtually unprecedented that within two and a half weeks of a disaster of this scale, with this level of devastation and these logistical challenges, that a mass vaccination campaign is already rolling out," Hall said.

The typhoon killed more than 5,230 people and left more than 3.4 million people homeless. The first phase of the vaccination campaign begins in Tacloban and will continue throughout the country in areas most at risk. Additional campaigns are underway to protect the region from future natural disasters.

The U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific called a three-day meeting in Bangkok, Thailand to discuss the need for protective infrastructure against the threat of increasing natural disasters.

"Hazards become disasters in the absence of development, and without adequate investment in risk reduction," ESCAP Executive Secretary Noeleen Heyzer said. "For greater resilience to become a reality, governments need to make disaster risk reduction an integral part of longer-term development plans, across multiple sectors."