UNICEF [to 25 April 2015]
:: Measles vaccination campaign aims to immunize over 2.6 million Syrian children
DAMASCUS, Syria, 24 April 2015 – A 10-day measles immunization campaign is underway in Syria to protect children from this deadly disease. Launched on 19 April, the campaign is aimed at children between six months and five years of age. Vaccination will be provided in 1,209 health centres, and nearly 6,000 health staff and mobile teams are participating in the campaign.
By the end of 2014, 594 children had been diagnosed with measles. Of these, almost half were not immunized. Since the conflict began in 2011, immunization rates across the country have fallen from 99 percent to just 52 per cent due to lack of access and severe damage to health infrastructure – nearly one third of the country’s health centres are either damaged or destroyed. UNICEF estimates that over 230,000 children in hard-to-reach areas across the country will likely miss out due to the ongoing conflict.
“In situations of conflict and upheaval, measles can be deadly, especially for children, which is why we must do everything possible to get all children vaccinated wherever they are across the country,” said Hanaa Singer, UNICEF Representative in Syria. “As long as children are left under-reached, the risk of children falling ill and diseases spreading will continue”.
The campaign coincides with World Immunization Week which focuses this year on “Closing the Gap” – sending a direct appeal to the global health community to focus on vaccinating the most marginalized children.
In Syria, the focus during this campaign will be on reaching displaced children. UNICEF estimates there are more than 3.8 million children internally displaced across the country, many of whom were missed out in previous measles campaigns. At least 646,000 are under the age of 5.
Children receiving the vaccines will also be checked for signs of malnutrition and provided with vital supplements and referral to medical services as needed.
This is the second campaign in less than a year. In 2014, UNICEF and partners reached 840,000 children with vaccination against measles.
UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Health with the provision of vaccinations and syringes, cold chain equipment and the training of vaccinators. Mass media and community outreach activities are taking place including through the dissemination of short message services (SMS), community meetings, recreation activities and social media campaigns.
:: Immunization drive under way for 3 million children in Ebola-hit countries
DAKAR/GENEVA, 24 April 2015 – For the first time since the start of the Ebola outbreak, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are conducting major nationwide immunization campaigns to protect millions of children against preventable but potentially deadly diseases.
As World Immunization Week is marked from April 24 to 30, the three countries most affected by Ebola aim to vaccinate more than three million children against diseases such as measles and polio in UNICEF-supported campaigns that involve the provision of vaccines and the training and deployment of thousands of immunization teams.
“While the effort to get to zero cases of Ebola continues, it’s critical that basic health services are restored,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “Stepping up immunization programs that were disrupted by the epidemic will save lives and prevent a reversal of the health gains that were made in these countries before the outbreak.”
In Sierra Leone, a mother and child health week begins today with the provision of Vitamin A, deworming pills and screening for malnutrition. More than 10,000 vaccinators and distributors will be going door-to-door across the country to deliver the interventions, which also include updates for those aged 0-23 months who have missed routine vaccinations. In May, an immunization drive for 1.5 million children under five will cover measles and polio.
A nationwide measles campaign got under way in Guinea on April 18 to vaccinate 1.3 million children aged six months to nine years. Some 100,000 children were vaccinated during an initial response to a measles outbreak in February. UNICEF also conducted community sensitization campaigns to inform the public of the safety of the vaccinations.
In Liberia, a campaign to provide measles and polio vaccinations to over 700,000 children under five years old is planned for May 8-14. UNICEF has supplied over 750,000 doses of measles vaccines, and, together with its partners is training more than 3,000 vaccinators and county health officials. It is also working with the Government of Liberia on nationwide social mobilization efforts to raise awareness of the campaign.
As the immunization campaigns are taking place while the threat of Ebola remains, vaccinators are following strict protocols including the use of protective wear, such as gloves and aprons, as well as regular handwashing.
More than 26,000 cases of Ebola and 10,000 deaths have been reported across the three countries where the outbreak has weakened already fragile health systems while disrupting routine health interventions.
:: Nearly 8 million children in Sudan to be immunized against measles following deadly outbreak – UNICEF
KHARTOUM, Sudan/ GENEVA / NAIROBI 22 April 2015 – Following one of the worst measles outbreaks in Sudan’s recent history, the Ministry of Health with support from UNICEF, the Measles and Rubella Initiative (M&RI) and national partners, is launching a massive campaign to immunize 7.9 million children aged six months to 15 years against this life-threatening disease.
Since the start of the outbreak at the end of 2014, there have been 1,730 confirmed cases, 3,175 suspected cases and 22 fatalities. West Darfur remains the worst affected state, with 441 confirmed cases and five deaths. Kassala has had 365 confirmed cases and five deaths, while in Red Sea state there have been 263 cases and four deaths.
“Measles is a life threatening disease but one that can easily be prevented with timely immunization,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Representative in Sudan. “Every girl and boy must be reached no matter where they live. There are no excuses and no child can be left out.”
The campaign, which launches today will initially target 28 affected localities in six of the highest risk states, before expanding to other areas identified as being at risk of an outbreak. In total it will target 96 localities in 16 affected and “at risk” states.
The immunization campaign will be a complex operation, however, as ongoing conflict in some areas of Sudan could restrict humanitarian access. There are children in conflict zones in the Kordofans, Blue Nile and Darfur who have not received routine immunization since 2011. UNICEF has called on all parties to the fighting to facilitate humanitarian access so that these children can be reached.
Children are most at risk of the disease – children who are malnourished are even more vulnerable. In Sudan, some 36 per cent of children are stunted and the country has one of the highest levels of malnutrition in Africa. Of the total number of reported measles cases in Sudan, 69 per cent are below 15 years of age, including 52 per cent under the age of five. For malnourished children measles can cause serious complications, including blindness, ear infections, pneumonia and severe diarrhoea.
The upcoming campaign is expected to cost approximately US $13.9 million – funds that are needed to procure 9.6 million doses of vaccine, logistics, measles case management and activating social networks in communities to ensure local buy-in. UNICEF is appealing to all donors to make funding available to fight the outbreak, which is having a detrimental effect on the lives of children across Sudan and threatens neighboring countries. UNICEF, WHO and partners are coordinating with surrounding countries to stop this outbreak from crossing borders.
The measles virus is spread by respiratory transmission and is highly contagious. Up to 90 per cent of people without immunity who are sharing a house with an infected person will catch it.