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UNICEF begins massive vaccination campaign in East Africa

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
UNICEF begins massive vaccination campaign in East Africa

UNICEF (UN Children's Fund), has launched a massive vaccination campaign across the Horn of Africa to protect children against diseases like measles, which can be deadly for malnourished children. This includes a strategy to vaccinate every child in Somalia (under the age of 15) against measles - a total of 2.5 million children.

In Southern and Central Somalia, cases of measles have been confirmed in Mogadishu, as well as cases of acute watery diarrhoea in Mogadishu, Afgoye, Baidoa and Lower Shabelle regions. With so many women and children on the move, the challenge is to reach all children to prevent new outbreaks of disease.

UNICEF began its vaccination campaign last week in Southern Somalia where vaccination coverage is just 26 per cent - one of the lowest in the world. Over 85,000 women and young children were vaccinated in eight districts of Mogadishu including in overcrowded internally displaced camps.

In Gedo region, preparations are on-going for a measles, Vitamin A and de-worming and tetanus toxoid campaign planned in 6 districts to reach over 125,000 women and young children. Provided access is ensured, UNICEF, in partnership with WHO, hopes to expand the campaign in other regions of Somalia in the coming weeks.

UNICEF is also working in conjunction with the Kenya Ministry of Health and WHO, to vaccinate children living in the host communities around Dadaab refugee camp in Northern Kenya. The campaign will target almost 203,000 children under five with measles and polio vaccines, together with Vitamin A and de-worming tablets.

The campaign in northern Kenya will continue until Friday and target children in Garissa, Fafi, Lagdera and Wajir South. The plan is to extend it to refugees in the Dadaab camps in early August. UNICEF has procured measles and polio vaccines to support the campaign together with vitamin and de-worming tablets. UNICEF is also supporting social and community mobilization to ensure people know about the campaign and understand why vaccination is important.

"This is a child survival crisis," said Elhadj As Sy, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa. "Children don't die just because they don't have enough food. In various stages of malnutrition, they are more prone to sickness and disease. As big a challenge as the rates of malnutrition pose, the danger for children extends even further."

Measles, a highly contagious disease, poses a serious threat as it can spread rapidly in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, wiping out those that are weak from malnutrition. Measles reduces a child's resistance to illness and makes them more likely to die when they are malnourished and suffering from other diseases. Vitamin A is given in emergencies to increase the likelihood of surviving the health risks associated with poor living conditions. A child who is vitamin A deficient faces a 25 per cent higher risk of dying from measles, malaria or diarrhoea.

Dennis McKinlay, Executive Director at UNICEF NZ, said, "UNICEF is massively scaling up our operations to reach children in drought affected areas with emergency and preventative assistance. The focus is on providing integrated interventions that address various aspects of a child's survival and development including providing health services and vaccinations.

"We have a huge challenge in the coming weeks and months but we have the expertise, experience and partnerships to reach every child who needs our help - all we need is funding. Contributions from generous Kiwis are already saving lives but with more donations we can do so much more," McKinlay said.

UNICEF NZ urgently needs funds to help children in need in East Africa. For only $40 you could vaccinate 100 children. Please donate now at <a href="http://www.unicef.org.nz">www.unicef.org.nz</a> or call 0800 800 194.

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