Somalia: UN agencies launch campaign to boost child survival

26 December 2008

United Nations agencies in Somalia have launched a multi-million dollar campaign aimed at reaching more than 1.5 million children under the age of five and women of child-bearing age across the strife-torn nation with critical interventions to improve child survival rates.

The Child Health Days campaign, launched yesterday by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in Hargeisa, Somaliland, will include vaccinations against measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio.

The package of preventive care will also include vitamin A supplements, nutritional assessments, de-worming, the distribution of oral rehydration salts and water purification tablets, the promotion of breastfeeding, and tetanus toxoid vaccination of girls and women aged 15 to 49.

“This campaign is historic because it marks the launch of a multi-million dollar strategy to improve the survival rates of all Somali children,” UNICEF Representative for Somalia, Christian Balslev-Olesen, said at the launch.

“It is our largest-ever campaign and it relies on partnerships for its outreach and its success,” he added. “By working in partnership, we are aiming to reach every single child under the age of five with this high-impact, life-saving package of interventions. Working together, we can protect children and their mothers against preventable diseases.”

The UN estimates that some 3.2 million people, or 40 per cent of the population, are in need of assistance. In addition, around one in six children under the age of five in southern and central Somalia is currently acutely malnourished.

Somalia, which has not had a functioning national government since 1991, has been plagued by fighting and humanitarian suffering for decades. Continuing instability, coupled with drought, high food prices and the collapse of the local currency have only worsened the dire humanitarian situation in recent months.


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