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Vaccination Campaign Begins in Southeast Asia - 2001-08-20

A five-year campaign to vaccinate every child in Southeast Asia against deadly diseases has been launched in Cambodia.

A global project aimed at immunizing children in the world's poorest countries kicked off in Southeast Asia Sunday in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on the outskirts of the famous Angkor temples. Mothers and their babies waited in line as health officials administered shots against diseases such as hepatitis, tetanus and diphtheria.

The United Nations estimates less than two-thirds of Cambodian children have been immunized against these diseases. More than eight percent of the unvaccinated children die before their first birthday.

The global health initiative is funded by the Vaccination Fund, from contributions by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and government donations. The campaign started in Mozambique in April. Cambodia is the first Southeast Asian country to implement the program.

Cambodian health officials say the government will use the initial donations from the fund to immunize about 96,000 children in the central Kampong Chhnang Province, where some 10 percent of the population live with the hepatitis B virus, which attacks the liver.

The fund is expected to spend up to two million Cambodia in the next five years.

Larger vaccination programs are planned for neighboring Laos and Vietnam.