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Sunday, 19 August, 2001, 11:01 GMT 12:01 UK
Bill Gates-sponsored vaccinations begin
Vaccines target hepatitis B, diptheria and tetanus
A five-year vaccination programme aimed at reaching every young child in South East Asia has begun with a ceremony in Cambodia.

The project, sponsored by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, plans to inoculate children against hepatitis, tetanus, and B-diphtheria.

Our poor country desperately needs the assistance

Cambodian Health Minister Hong Sun Huot
A six-month-old baby girl, Chan Ramsey, was given the first of three injections at the ceremony in the town of Siem Reap. close by the famous Angkor Wat temple.

Among the guests were representatives of the Vaccine Fund, an organisation set up in 1999 with a $750m donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The fund, which is helping to pay for the project, estimates that 13 million South East Asian children a year are not being inoculated, of whom one in eight will die before the age of five.

Initial phase

Cambodia's Health Minister Hong Sun Huot said Chan Ramsey would be the first of 96,000 children inoculated in an initial phase, mostly in the central province of Kampong Chhnang.

He said about 10% of the people in the province suffered from hepatitis B, which attacks the liver.

The Vaccine Fund is donating $296,000 towards Cambodia's programme. Fund president Jacques-Francois Martin said annual spending would continue at between $300,000 - $400,000 for five years.

The fund has also announced plans to give $3.5m to similar projects in Laos and Vietnam.

Cambodia is among the poorest nations in the world.

The United Nations' Children's Fund (Unicef) estimates that nearly 9% of Cambodian children die before reaching their first birthday.

Less than two-thirds of Cambodia's children have received basic immunisation.

See also:

30 Mar 00 | G-I
Hepatitis C
24 Nov 99 | Americas
Gates pledges $750m vaccine fund
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