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Nearly 3 million children in Niger targeted in UN-backed measles campaign

Nearly 3 million children in Niger targeted in UN-backed measles campaign

Niger's President Mamadou Tandja   comforts 16-month-old boy receiving vaccine [File Photo]
Some 2.9 million children in Niger are to be vaccinated against measles during a week-long integrated immunization campaign now under way with United Nations support.

“The overriding goal is to prevent measles deaths and disability, and to give each child in Niger the best start in life,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) country representative Akhil Iyer said. “This campaign is testimony to the commitment of the Government and a remarkable example of successful partnership between different players.”

The drive is led by the West African country’s Ministry of Health, with financial and technical support from UNICEF, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and a coalition of other partners.

The campaign is costing $2.3 million, with the international agencies contributing the bulk of the funds. Through the generous support of the United States Centers for Disease Control, the UN Foundation and Norway, UNICEF is the largest contributor, having released more than $1.5 million to cover vaccine procurement, syringes for safe injections and safety boxes, as well as transportation, training and social mobilization.

Before Niger began intensive measles-control activities with its first Measles Initiative-supported campaign in 2004-05, measles was a major cause of childhood death and disability here. According to UNICEF, the reported incidence of measles has since decreased from 40,000 cases and 500 deaths in 2003 to 478 cases and 4 deaths in 2006.

This year’s follow-up campaign is targeting more than 2.9 children between nine months and five years and aims to give all children under five a second opportunity for immunization. Some 683,000 babies are born every year, of whom 360,000 – or 53 per cent – are estimated to lack measles vaccine coverage.

In addition to the measles shots, 2.6 million children aged 1-5 years will be given a dose of de-worming medicine to combat anaemia and malnutrition.