Vaccination campaigns for children underway in the Horn of Africa “Critical lifeline” to protect malnourished children from killer diseases

 

Vaccination campaigns for children underway in the Horn of Africa “Critical lifeline” to protect malnourished children from killer diseases

NAIROBI/ HONG KONG, 26 July 2011 – This week, UNICEF, the Kenya Ministry of Health and WHO have launched a vaccination campaign for children living in the host communities around Dadaab refugee camp in Northern Kenya. The campaign will target 202,665 children under five, with measles and polio vaccines, together with Vitamin A and de-worming tablets. It is part of a regional push to ensure all children in drought affected areas are vaccinated against a killer disease like measles which can be deadly for malnourished children, and be protected from polio.

On 2 August, a community health worker vaccinates a child during the UNICEF-supported measles and polio immunization campaign under way in the Ifo refugee camp in North Eastern Province, near the Kenya-Somalia border. The camp for Somalia refugees is among three that comprise the Dadaab camps, located near the town of Dadaab in Garissa District. By 2 August 2011, the crisis in the Horn of Africa affecting primarily Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti continues, with a worsening drought, rising food prices and an ongoing conflict in Somalia. More than 12 million people are threatened by the regions worst drought in 60 years. Somalia faces one of the worlds most severe food security crises as it continues to endure an extended humanitarian emergency, with tens of thousands fleeing into Kenya and Ethiopia. More than 10,000 Somalis a week are now arriving in the Dadaab camps in north-eastern Kenya, where aid partners are struggling to meet the needs of 400,000 people. In drought-affected areas of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti, some 500,000 severely malnourished children are at imminent risk of dying, while a further 1.6 million moderately malnourished children and the wider-affected population are at high risk of disease. In northern Kenya, more than 25 per cent of children suffer from global acute malnutrition. UNICEF, together with Governments, UN, NGO and community partners, is supporting a range of interventions and essential services, especially for the displaced and for refugees, including feeding programmes, immunization mass vaccination campaigns are now underway in drought-affected parts of Kenya and Somalia and other health outreach, as well as access to safe water and to improve sanitation. In Kenya, the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) have reached 290,000 children with polio and measles vaccinations in refugee host communities near the Dadaab camps. UNICEF is providing the vaccines, as well as deworming tablets and vitamin A (to boost childrens immunity). A similar campaign is now under way to immunize children in the Dadaab camps. A joint United Nations appeal for humanitarian assistance for the region requires US$2.5 billion, less than half of which has been committed.Already last week, a vaccination campaign started in Southern Somalia, where vaccination coverage is just 26 per cent, one of the lowest in the world. Starting last Thursday and completed today, 40,000, children under five and 46,000 women, are being targeted in eight districts of Mogadishu including in overcrowded internally displaced camps. In Gedo region, preparations are on-going for the measles, , Vitamin A and de-worming and tentanus toxoid campaign planned in 6 districts targeting 55,000 children under five and 72,580 women of child-bearing age. Provided access is ensured, UNICEF, in partnership with WHO, hopes to expand the campaign in the regions of Galgaduud, greater Benadir, Bay, Bakool, Hiran, Lower Shabelle and the Jubas in the coming month. The plan is to expand coverage of measles for all children up to 15 years of age to reach a total of 2.5 million children.

 

In Southern and Central Somalia, cases of measles have been confirmed in Mogadishu, as well as cases of acute watery diarrhea in Mogadishu, Afgoye, Baidoa, Lower Shabelle regions. With so many women and children on the move, both crossing borders and becoming internally displaced, the challenge is to reach all children, including the older children, to prevent new outbreaks of disease. In many parts of the worst affected areas, partners on the ground are already stretched trying to cope with the large numbers of people they need to help with these types of services.

“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.”

The campaign in northern Kenya, which starts today, will continue until Friday and target children in Garissa, Fafi, Lagdera and Wajir South. The plan is to extend it to refugees in the Dadaab camps in early August. UNICEF has procured measles and polio vaccines to support the campaign together with vitamin and de-worming tablets. UNICEF is also supporting social and community mobilization to ensure people know about the campaign and understand why vaccination is important.

On 29 July, a child receives a dose of oral polio vaccine during the UNICEF-supported measles and polio immunization campaign under way in the Ifo refugee camp in North Eastern Province, near the Kenya-Somalia border. The camp for Somalia refugees is among three that comprise the Dadaab camps, located near the town of Dadaab in Garissa District. By 2 August 2011, the crisis in the Horn of Africa affecting primarily Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti continues, with a worsening drought, rising food prices and an ongoing conflict in Somalia. More than 12 million people are threatened by the regions worst drought in 60 years. Somalia faces one of the worlds most severe food security crises as it continues to endure an extended humanitarian emergency, with tens of thousands fleeing into Kenya and Ethiopia. More than 10,000 Somalis a week are now arriving in the Dadaab camps in north-eastern Kenya, where aid partners are struggling to meet the needs of 400,000 people. In drought-affected areas of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti, some 500,000 severely malnourished children are at imminent risk of dying, while a further 1.6 million moderately malnourished children and the wider-affected population are at high risk of disease. In northern Kenya, more than 25 per cent of children suffer from global acute malnutrition. UNICEF, together with Governments, UN, NGO and community partners, is supporting a range of interventions and essential services, especially for the displaced and for refugees, including feeding programmes, immunization mass vaccination campaigns are now underway in drought-affected parts of Kenya and Somalia and other health outreach, as well as access to safe water and to improve sanitation. In Kenya, the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) have reached 290,000 children with polio and measles vaccinations in refugee host communities near the Dadaab camps. UNICEF is providing the vaccines, as well as deworming tablets and vitamin A (to boost childrens immunity). A similar campaign is now under way to immunize children in the Dadaab camps. A joint United Nations appeal for humanitarian assistance for the region requires US$2.5 billion, less than half of which has been committed.

Measles, a highly contagious disease, poses a serious threat as it can spread rapidly in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, wiping out those that are weak from malnutrition. Measles reduces a child’s resistance to illness and makes them more likely to die when they are malnourished and suffering from other diseases. Vitamin A is given in emergencies to increase the likelihood of surviving the health risks associated with poor living conditions. A child who is vitamin A deficient faces a 25 per cent higher risk of dying from measles, malaria or diarrhea.

UNICEF estimates it will need HK$2.34 billion (US$300 million) over the next 6 months for a massive scale up of operations to reach children in the Horn of Africa’s drought affected areas with emergency and preventative assistance. The focus is on providing integrated interventions that addresses various aspects of a child’s survival and development including providing health services and vaccination.