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Government of Belize and UNICEF launch State of the World’s Children 2023 report

Posted: Friday, June 23, 2023. 1:00 pm CST.

By Zoila Palma Gonzalez: On June 19, 2023, UNICEF Belize in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Wellness held a ceremony to launch the State of the World’s Children 2023: For Every Child, Vaccination, and handover critical cold chain equipment to strengthen primary health care in Belize.

The State of the World’s Children 2023 is UNICEF’s flagship report and was first launched globally in April of this year.

The 2023 edition is the first edition of the report solely dedicated to routine immunization. It sounds the alarm that there is a growing global immunization crisis resulting in 67 million children missing out on vaccinations between 2019 and 2021, with vaccination coverage levels decreasing in 112 countries.

The report reveals public perception of the importance of vaccines for children declined during the COVID-19 pandemic in 52 out of 55 countries studied.

The children who are missing out live in the poorest, most remote, and marginalized communities, at times impacted by conflict.

According to a joint release, new data produced for the report by the International Center for Equity in Health found that in the poorest households, 1 in 5 children are zero-dose while in the wealthiest, it is just 1 in 20. It found unvaccinated children often live in hard-to-reach communities such as rural areas or urban slums.

They often have mothers who have not been able to go to school and who are given little say in family decisions. These challenges are greatest in low- and middle-income countries, where about 1 in 10 children in urban areas are zero-dose and 1 in 6 in rural areas.

 In upper-middle-income countries, there is almost no gap between urban and rural children. Comparable to other countries in the Latin America and the Caribbean region, Belize has also reported a decline in immunization coverage from over 95% to less than 70% in the last two years.

UNICEF is further calling on governments to double down on their commitment to increase financing for immunization and to work with stakeholders to unlock available resources, including leftover COVID-19 funds, to urgently implement and accelerate catch-up vaccination efforts to protect children and prevent disease outbreaks.

World leaders are urged to urgently identify and reach all children, especially those who missed vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic, strengthen demand for vaccines, including by building confidence and prioritize funding for immunization services and primary health care.

Countries can build resilient health systems through investment in female health workers, innovation, and local manufacturing.

The event included the ceremonial handover of health equipment to the Minister of Health and Wellness, Kevin Bernard.

These included walk-in cold rooms, temperature monitoring devices, oxygen concentrators, oximeters, transport incubators, vaccine app, generators, and vehicle to be used to support the national immunization programme and maternal and child health services.

Bernard, spoke of the past and ongoing technical assistance received from UNICEF and how the collaboration has strengthened, most significantly, our expanded program on Immunization.

“Immunization is a priority program of the Ministry of Health & Wellness. I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to UNICEF headquarters and to the UNICEF country office for the strong support provided to the Ministry for the strengthening of the Expanded Program on Immunization as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bernard said.

UNICEF Representative for Belize, Alison Parker, shared the significance of the ceremony and reaffirmed UNICEF’s commitment through an expanded health programme in Belize.

Dr. Ralph Midy, UNICEF’s Regional Immunization Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean, attended the ceremony to share an overview of the report and its implications for Belize. He lauded the government for prioritizing immunization services to “catch up” to pre-pandemic immunization rates and for investing in the strengthening of primary health care.

Ambassador H.E. Nobuyuki Shirakata of the Embassy of Japan in Belize also spoke at the ceremony pledging his government’s support to advance short and long-term health goals.

The ceremony concluded with the presentation of the winners of a poster competition held at the August Pine Ridge RC School.

The students of the upper division of the primary school designed posters depicting the importance of vaccinations.

First place winners were Meidelyn Ramos and Ameidy Mendoza were the first-place winners with their poster and slogan: “A vaccine today; keeps the virus away.”

 

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