Georgie Parker Interview for UNICEF
It is estimated that almost two million children in developing countries die from pneumonia each year, more than the total number of Australians who died, from all causes, in the ten years from 1998-2008 (WHO/UNICEF, 2009). Almost as shocking is that many of these deaths are preventable. The risk of death from pneumonia can be significantly reduced if a child is immunised against measles.
Pneumonia is a serious complication of measles and the most common cause of death associated with measles worldwide (UNICEF/WHO, 2006). The majority of these deaths occur in developing countries, but between April and August this year, Australians will be able to help in the fight against pneumonia via the Vicks Road to Relief program.
Every specially marked Vicks product purchased will pay for one child in a developing country to be immunised against measles, to help in the fight against pneumonia. All funds raised by the Vicks Road to Relief will be donated to UNICEF, who will ensure that the measles vaccines are administered in the places where they are most urgently needed. The goal is to fund 2 million immunisations in 2010 alone.
Martin Thomas, spokesperson for UNICEF Australia, commented, "Pneumonia is known as the 'forgotten killer'. It claims the lives of more children in developing countries than any other illness - more than AIDS and malaria combined3- yet receives little attention."
This winter, actress and mother, Georgie Parker, will be helping to educate Australians about how they can help reduce these unnecessary deaths, simply by looking after their own families. "I was shocked to learn that pneumonia was having such a huge effect on the lives of so many children in the developing world. As a mother myself it was not an illness I ever associated with children," she said.
"The beauty of the 'buy one pack, immunise one child' approach is that by purchasing a product that will help them take care of their own family, Australians can also dramatically help a less fortunate family somewhere else in world," she continued.
One of the countries whose children will benefit from the Vicks Road to Relief is Bangladesh. One of the world's most densely populated countries, there are 1104 people per square kilometre in Bangladesh compared to about three people per square kilometre in Australia. And there are over 64 million children in Bangladesh - that's more than three times the entire population of Australia.
In February, Georgie travelled to Bangladesh with UNICEF Australia to witness firsthand the immunisation of hundreds of children between the ages of 9 and 59 months.
"Visiting Bangladesh was an amazing and humbling experience. The delivery of the immunisations is a huge undertaking and seeing what the dedicated UNICEF team is able to accomplish, with the most basic provisions, was both remarkable and inspiring," said Georgie.
"Access to immunisations is something that Australian parents may take for granted. But globally, 1 in 5 children will not receive immunisation against basic diseasese," said Mr Thomas of UNICEF Australia.
The significance of the campaign falls in line with the Millennium Development Goal to reduce by two - thirds the mortality rate of children under five. "With less than five years until the Goals are set be realised, we need to do everything we can. In developing countries this can be as simple as immunising children against a preventable disease like measles to stop the lethal spread of pneumonia," commented Mr Thomas.
For more information about the Vicks Road to Relief and the other countries that will benefit from Australians' support this winter, visit www.vicksroadtorelief.com
Vicks range of products helps relieve cough and cold symptoms. Vicks is not for the treatment of pneumonia. Always read the label. Use only as directed. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.
Interview with Georgie Parker
Can you share with us a little bit about your role with UNICEF Australia and Vicks? Georgie Parker
: I am working on an amazing initiative called the Vicks Road to Relief to help protect children in developing countries from pneumonia, which is a common and severe complication of measles.
This winter, one Vicks pack = one immunisation. Every specially marked Vicks product purchased will fund a donation to UNICEF for the immunisation of one child in a developing country against measles, to help in the fight against pneumonia. It is a simple initiative that can make an enormous difference.
Why did you choose to go to Bangladesh, with UNICEF Australia? Georgie Parker
: Bangladesh is one of the countries where UNICEF is administering immunisations in 2010, as part of their Global Measles Immunisation project. A portion of the funding raised through the Vicks Road to Relief is being attributed there.
Travelling to Bangladesh with UNICEF was an eye opening experience and so was the size of the immunisation process - they were aiming to immunise 90 percent of the country's children in just two weeks, in an effort to reduce the incidence of measles and its complications, like pneumonia.
Were you surprised at the amount of children in developing countries who die from pneumonia, each year? Georgie Parker
: When I first learned of how large the problem was it did shock me. Almost two million children die from pneumonia each year, mainly in developing countries, even though it is preventable. It just shows how important initiatives such as the Vicks Road to Relief are and how there is still so much work needed to be done.
What did you learn and see whilst in Bangladesh? Georgie Parker
: I was briefed at the UNICEF headquarters so I had a better picture of the great work they do. On my first day in Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital, I was taken along crowded streets to a clinic where vaccinations were given and I had the chance to meet the children receiving immunisations.
We also travelled out of Dhaka to see one of the 140,000 rural immunisations clinics. After leaving the chaotic traffic in the city and passing through rich green rice paddies we again were met by lines of children and their mothers outside the clinic. It was an amazing experience that showed me just how important the Vicks Road to Relief is.
Did this journey, change you in any way? Georgie Parker
: It made me realise how much Australians take immunisation and the ease with which we can protect our children from contagious disease for granted. It also made me conscious of how hard it is for people in countries like Bangladesh to access even basic healthcare, including immunisations, without the help of programs like the Vicks Road to Relief and organisations like UNICEF.
Would you return to Bangladesh or would you choose another country, in need? Georgie Parker
: It was a privilege to travel with UNICEF to Bangladesh and should the opportunity arise to travel there again, or to any other country to help raise awareness of the Vicks Road to Relief initiative, I would definitely consider it.
How can Australians help with this cause? Georgie Parker
: It is really easy - just look after their families with Vicks this winter. Each and every specially marked Vicks product purchased will pay for the immunisation of a child against measles in a developing country - it's that simple.