Somalia: UNICEF and partners begin mass vaccinations amid serious measles outbreak

19 December 2016

Following a major measles outbreak in Somalia, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners supported a swift delivery of 55,000 doses of measles vaccine to Kismayo along with Vitamin A supplementation to boost the immunity of the some 54,000 children under the age of 10 that are expected to be vaccinated.

“Measles is one of the most deadly vaccine-preventable diseases but sadly it is far from being the only one in Somalia,” said Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF Somalia’s acting Representative, adding that the agency is very grateful to the donors, but more support is needed to secure a nationwide immunisation coverage and engagement with local communities, as well as fully vaccinate every child.

UNICEF reported that there have been over 704 cases of fever and rashes in Kismayo, the majority of them children. Many of the children, suspected to be suffering from measles, are

sleeping on the floor of Kismayo General Hospital. Most were not vaccinated against measles although there are 16 free vaccination posts in Kismayo.

In addition, the agency has sent three freezers for the cold chain storage for vaccines. The initiative was supported by several donors, including the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), Finland, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Somalia, where measles continue to be the leading cause of death among young children in, has one of the lowest immunization rates in the world. The disease can be prevented with two doses of a safe and effective vaccine, while lack of immunization can lead to pneumonia, diarrhoea, and encephalitis which causes brain swelling and blindness and attacks those with weak immunity resulting from malnutrition, Vitamin A deficiency and unhygienic living conditions.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is funding the cold chain and awareness creation activities, as well as the newly introduced vaccine against polio (IPV) and the Pentavalent vaccine which covers childhood TB, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib).

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