UN Says Lebanon’s Crises Threatening Children’s Health

The United Nations said Wednesday that child vaccination rates in Lebanon have dropped by more than 30 percent, compounding a health crisis marked by drug shortages and an exodus of trained professionals.

“The critical drop in vaccination rates has left children vulnerable to potentially deadly diseases such as measles, diphtheria and pneumonia,” the UN children’s agency UNICEF said in a new report titled “A worsening health crisis for children.”

“Routine vaccination of children has dropped by 31% when rates already were worryingly low, creating a large pool of unprotected children vulnerable to disease and its impact,” it added.

The ripple effects of the global economic situation, with heightened prices and increased inflation, are exacerbating Lebanon’s calamitous crisis, with grave consequences for children’s health

“With 80% of the population living in poverty, many families cannot even afford the cost of transportation to take their children to a health care center, and many are no longer able to provide the food and nutrition their children need to survive and thrive,” Ettie Higgins, UNICEF Representative said.

Keeping the cold chain for vaccines running is critical and the rising fuel prices pose new threats to essential services, such as vaccine delivery, despite efforts to rapidly increase the use of solar power, the report added.

Lebanon’s National Nutrition Survey 2021 shows that the key nutritional indicators for young children are poor from the very beginning of life and worsen over time.

“More than 90% of children do not meet the standards for minimum meal frequency, dietary diversity or acceptable diet during the crucial period for growth and development up to age 2,” the report said.

UNICEF called for immediate support to prevent a further deterioration of the health and nutrition situation and protect the most vulnerable women and children.

“With the compound crisis showing no sign of abating, concerted action is critical to prioritize children’s health. Lebanon cannot afford children to be in poor health and nutritionally deprived”, said Ettie Higgins.

Higgins said that UNICEF reinforces its call to the Lebanese government and all stakeholders to scale up efforts to vaccinate all children against vaccine preventable diseases, and to improve the nutritional well-being of children and women.  

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