UNICEF (UN Children's Fund), has launched a massive vaccination campaign across the Horn of Africa to protect 2.5 million children against diseases like measles, which can be deadly for malnourished children. This drive would include a strategy to vaccinate every child in Somalia (under the age of 15) against measles.
Measles cases were confirmed in Southern and Central Somalia and cases of acute watery diarrhea in Mogadishu, Afgoye, Baidoa and Lower Shabelle regions were detected. With so many women and children on the move, the challenge is to reach all children to prevent new outbreaks of disease say officials.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”