x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

UAE Red Crescent and Unicef to vaccinate 850,000 Pakistani women and children

Campaign costing Dh2.8m will give people in Thatta and Dadu, two of Pakistan's worst-hit towns, immunisation against diseases including measles and polio.

ABU DHABI // The UAE Red Crescent Authority (RCA) and Unicef will vaccinate more than three quarters of a million women and children in flood-devastated Pakistan against diseases, including measles and polio. The campaign, which will begin next week, is the organisation's second since August and will cost Dh2.8 million. About 850,000 people in Thatta and Dadu, two of Pakistan's worst-hit towns, will receive the immunisations.

"The health situation after the disastrous floods in Pakistan is critical," said Mohammed al Qamzi, the secretary general of the Red Crescent Association. "It was an obligation for the Red Crescent and the UN agencies ... to secure medical prevention measures against diseases that can spread among the victims of the disaster." Women of childbearing age will receive two doses of the tetanus vaccine, and children between six months and five years of age will receive one dose each of the measles and polio vaccines.

In August, the Red Crescent and Unicef announced they would send volunteers and vaccines for 625,000 women and children in Pakistan. The UN says about 20 million people have been affected by the floods in the country. "In these disasters, the transfer of diseases is easy, and the circumstances are favourable for that transfer because of the environment and hygiene, but also because of the crowded camps," said Ayman Abu Laban, Unicef's representative in the Gulf.

The most dangerous problems are water-borne diseases like cholera, which causes diarrhoea - which can be fatal to children - and illnesses such as measles. Mr al Qamzi said he hoped to expand the campaigns during the next few months, adding that "the UAE was prepared to provide aid in Pakistan for several years as the country rebuilds". The Red Crescent has raised more than Dh100m since it began collecting donations for Pakistan aid. Mr al Qamzi said the distribution of aid was "completely transparent", with RCA representatives overseeing the process.

Dr Wasan al Kaabi, a Red Crescent volunteer and emergency doctor who spent 10 days in Pakistan this year, is returning when the new batch of vaccines is sent; she called the situation on the ground a "disaster". Dr al Kaabi said she treated more than 80 patients a day during her time in the country this year. She was the only female doctor among the Red Crescent volunteers. Mr Abu Laban said there is a huge need for female doctors because many women avoid going to medical centres staffed by men.