Measles shots given to over 140,000 children in Somalia, says UNICEF

19 September 2008

The latest vaccination campaign in Somalia to fight the spread of measles has reached more than 140,000 children despite the overall climate of insecurity and violence, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) announced today.

The latest vaccination campaign in Somalia to fight the spread of measles has reached more than 140,000 children despite the overall climate of insecurity and violence, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) announced today.

Some 95 per cent of children in the Mogadishu and Afgoye internally displaced person (IDP) camps received the measles inoculations between 27 August and 4 September.

“Carried out in a complex situation with a mix of recent heavy rainfall and insecurity, the vaccination teams had to overcome insurmountable odds in some locations,” said UNICEF Somalia Representative, Christian Balslev-Olesen.

“A major challenge was accessing the IDPs who, largely due to the conflict and civil insecurity in Mogadishu, have been dispersed along the Mogadishu-Afgoye stretch of road,” he added.

Measles is a serious public health problem in the conflict-wracked country, with one of the highest infant and under-five mortality rates in the world at 86 per 1,000 children and 135 per 1,000 live births respectively, according to a UNICEF press release.

The latest measles campaign is part of a global effort aimed at reducing before the end of 2010 the number of measles deaths by 90 per cent from its 2000 figure.

It is also a follow-up to last year’s drive, which reached 450,000 children and resulted in a dramatic drop in cases from 3,836 in the first half of 2006 to 564 in the corresponding period in 2007 and seven deaths.

“With an increase in the numbers of IDPs in Mogadishu and Afgoye, this campaign is providing essential protection against one of the most rampant communicable diseases,” said UNICEF Somalia Health Specialist, Unni Silkoset.

“UNICEF and its collaborating partners continue efforts to reduce its incidence through routine immunization, campaigns and management of cases while new approaches for reaching more children with comprehensive interventions are [being planned].”

Measles infection occurs through the spread of nasal and oral fluids. After an incubation period of seven to 14 days, the first symptoms are fever, nasal discharge and redness of the eyes. Measles is a contributing cause of malnutrition, which in turn increases the risk of contracting measles.

 

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