Geneva, 1 August 2012 â€” In the face of a severe humanitarian crisis, the government of Yemen, supported by GAVI and its partners, will aim to vaccinate the one million children born each year, against the most severe form of diarrhoea. Yemen today introduced the rotavirus vaccines to protect against rotavirus, the leading cause of severe diarrhoea, which is often fatal for children under five.
"The introduction of this vaccine is a landmark in giving children in Yemen the healthy start in life they need," said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance.
"Those tools are vital if we want to protect the children of Yemen from such deadly diseases," said Prof. Ahmad Qasim Al-A'nsi, Minister of Public Health and Population of Yemen.
"We know that diarrhoea worsens malnutrition, which increases the duration of diarrhoea and lessens resistance," added Dr Berkley. “This vaccine is preventing the most serious form of diarrhoea in countries across the world and it can do the same in Yemen."
International organisations and charities are calling for support to Yemen, where as many as one million children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Globally, 61% of children who die of diarrhoea have malnutrition as an underlying risk factor.
Yemen is the first GAVI-eligible country in the Middle-East region to introduce the rotavirus vaccines. This introduction takes place 18 months after the country introduced pneumococcal vaccines against the main cause of pneumonia. Pneumonia and severe infant diarrhoea account for 22% and 11% respectively of under-five deaths in Yemen.
Yemen has one of the highest rates of under-five mortality in the world, at 77 deaths per 1 000 live births compared to 41 deaths per 1 000 live births for the whole of the Middle East and North Africa region. Its immunisation coverage rate for DTP3, the standard measure of immunisation, reached 81% in 2011, according to the latest data released by the World Health Organization. It is also the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula. More than 46% of the population lives below the poverty line on less than US$2 a day.
Globally, one in every 260 children born each year dies as a result of rotavirus by their fifth birthday. Since 2006, 28 GAVI-eligible countries have been approved to receive the rotavirus vaccine and nine have already introduced it, including Yemen today (three additional countries are expected to introduce rotavirus vaccines in the coming months). By rapidly scaling up the roll-out of these vaccines, GAVI and its partners can improve child health and protect millions of lives.
Vaccines would not reach children without the critical work of ministries of health in GAVI-eligible countries which roll out the vaccines. UNICEF, WHO, and the World Bank are at the heart of the GAVI Alliance and industry partners play a major role to ensure that all children have access to immunisation.