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UN Launches Hepatitis B Vaccination Campaign in Peru - 2003-09-24

The United Nations has launched a vaccination campaign aimed at saving two Peruvian tribes threatened with extinction by hepatitis B.

The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, made the announcement Tuesday, saying in a statement that the Candoshi and Sharpas tribes could face extinction within 10-12 years if preventive action, especially among children, is not taken.

The United Nations says the Candoshis suffered 145 cases of hepatitis B two years ago and that last year, 40 deaths were reported. There was no data on the Sharpas. Both groups have a population of about 3,000 people.

UNICEF says its goal is to vaccinate all the tribes' 150 babies three times before they reach the age of one to try to eliminate the disease, which can cause liver failure.

The two ethnic groups live along the Pastaza and Morona rivers in a remote area of the Amazon basin. UNICEF says travel from the region to the nearest health center can take four days.