Measles campaign aims to protect drought-hit communities in Somalia

Mogadishu, Somalia (PANA) – A measles vaccination campaign has been launched in Somalia in response to several months of drought, which has raised the likelihood of a catastrophic spread of infectious diseases, local health authorities and UN aid agencies said on Monday.

The nationwide campaign aims to protect millions of children against the potentially deadly effects of measles, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Somali national health authorities said in a joint statement.

“The campaign will intensify efforts to improve immunity against measles and reach unvaccinated children. As we saw last year when partners responded to a major cholera outbreak, with the right interventions, WHO and the Somali health authorities are confident that similar success may be seen in controlling this measles outbreak,” said Dr Ghulam Popal, WHO Representative in Somalia.

The campaign aiming to reach 4.7 million children aged six months to 10 years was launched in several states in Somalia. The first weekly target of the campaign is to reach 2.7 million children in the southern and central states, along with 1.1 million children in Somaliland, the UN agencies said.

The vaccinations will be available at health centres and temporary vaccination sites. Puntland implemented its campaign in January when over 933,000 children were vaccinated.

Over 2,800 cases of suspected measles have been reported since the start of the year, with the most affected regions including Bay, Banadir and Mudug.

In 2017 there were more than 23,000 suspected cases of measles – six times as many as in 2016 – with the vast majority (83 per cent) affecting children under ten.

In early 2017, WHO, UNICEF and partners, together with national health authorities, vaccinated nearly 600,000 children aged 6 months to 5 years for measles in hard-to-reach and hot spot areas across Somalia.

More than two years of severe drought has led to widespread child malnutrition, mass displacement, and a lack of access to clean water and sanitation, creating ideal conditions for infectious disease outbreaks.

“The situation is especially critical for millions of under-vaccinated, weak and vulnerable children who are susceptible to contracting infectious diseases," the statement warned.

More than 1.2 million children are projected to be at risk of acute malnutrition in the next 12 months. These children are nine times more likely to die of killer diseases such as measles and acute watery diarrhoea /cholera than healthy children,” said Steven Lauwerier, UNICEF Somalia Representative.

-0- PANA AO/AR 12March2018

12 Março 2018 17:58:23

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